Hunts in Dreams

Tom Drury, Author
Tom Drury, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $22 (200p) ISBN 978-0-395-94113-3
Paperback - 200 pages - 978-0-8021-4561-1
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-618-12740-5
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Somewhere in the Midwest, the Darling family is in for an intricate and difficult transformation one October weekend, in Drury's lyrically bleak but oddly hopeful third novel, which follows several of the characters of his praised The End of Vandalism. Charles (aka ""Tiny""), a plumber who ""would fix something in such a way that it would need fixing again soon,"" yearns to possess a vintage double-barreled shotgun once owned by his family and currently in the possession of a minister's widow. Charles's wife, Joan, is headed to Stone City for the weekend, to attend the animal shelter convention, but winds up having an affair with her egotistical doctor. This leaves Charles stuck with the kids, an overly imaginative seven-year-old son named Micah who thinks he can see ghosts, and Lyris, 16, the daughter Joan gave up for adoption at birth and who, after a succession of foster parents, now lives with the Darlings. Meanwhile, Charles's middle-aged brother, Jerry, has taken up with Lyris's teenage friend, and Lyris herself gets involved with a local miscreant and budding arsonist. Stark in its depiction of family life going nowhere, the novel (with its title inspired by Tennyson and its domestic drama reminiscent of Rick Moody's The Ice Storm) describes smalltowners who must compromise their unruly desires, and confront their failures and weaknesses. Charles, trapped in his well-meaning but blundering ways, may be able to defend Lyris's honor, but he cannot hold his family together. The children likewise do their best: Lyris is a scarred survivor who trusts no one, and young Micah invents playmates in a town devoid of excitement. Those who do manage to break out of their daily existence, like Joan, face the horrifying prospect of a life beyond the accepted pattern, where one finds not freedom but an abyss of confusion. Drury portrays this potential unmooring with persuasive clarity. His gift for dead-on realism and unfussy dialogue reveals the humorous, edgy pathos of his characters and invests his story with the ambiguity of real life and the poignancy of unrealized dreams. Author tour. (May)
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