The Black Brook

Tom Drury, Author
Tom Drury, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $23 (319p) ISBN 978-0-395-70194-2
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-395-95795-0
Paperback - 319 pages - 978-0-7490-0455-2
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-8021-2306-0
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Drury follows his winning debut, The End of Vandalism, a laugh-out-loud funny portrait of small-town eccentrics in Connecticut, with a diffuse and unfocused attempt at, one guesses, social satire. This novel, too long, insistently not funny and seemingly enamored of the non sequitur, reads like the script for an unmade John Cassavetes film. The protagonist, Paul, is an unremarkable fellow from New England attending college in Quebec, sharing a house with Loom and Alice, his best friends, who later marry. Paul weds Mary, the widow of a man for whom he interned during the summer, filing police records in Boston. After graduation, Paul takes an accountancy job and bumbles into money laundering for one of his clients. This earns him a subpoena and eventual entry into a witness protection program, a short stay in the Pacific Northwest and then a spell in Brussels, where Mary has inherited a hotel. Paul and Mary split up, and Paul lands a newspaper job in the small New Hampshire town where Loom and Alice live. Paul has an affair with Alice, speaks with a woman's ghost (she committed suicide or drowned), goes searching for the woman's daughter, whom he finds working as a golf pro in Scotland. And so on. Since Mary is also a copier of famous paintings, Paul returns to Belgium to ask her to make a copy of Sargent's Black Brook, because (perhaps) one of the stories Paul worked on at the newspaper was about a stream that disappeared. This book will try the patience of anyone who does not equate feckless with funny. It's a tremendous disappointment from a writer once called a mixture of Keillor and Carver. (June)
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