Touched

Scott Campbell, Author
Scott Campbell, Author Bantam Books $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-553-09996-6
Paperback - 324 pages - 978-0-553-37822-1
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Honest, unpretentious prose characterizes this first novel about a case of criminal sexual misconduct and two families in crisis. In the opening chapter, set in 1980, Linda Young, 33, who lives in a ""friendly, safe"" neighborhood in Jackson, Mich., describes the moment when her 12-year-old son, Robbie, drops ""his bomb"": ""Jerry Houseman's been touching me."" Robbie says the abuse has been going on for ""a while,"" which stretches into a few months, then a year. Jerry, a neighbor with three daughters, has been showering Robbie with gifts, treating him like a surrogate son-or so Linda has assumed. Robbie begs his mother not to tell anyone, but she and her husband call the police. Campbell delivers the story of Jerry's arrest, trial and the aftermath, from four points of view. They include Linda's unabashedly angry account, Jerry's detached and sentimental narration and a poignant portrait by Jerry's wife, Jeanette, of her husband, who has been previously attracted to young boys. The final and most convincing voice, that of Robbie as a young adult, gets to the heart of the boy's turmoil. Readers must wade past some superficial narrative here, but they'll find that, through Jeanette and Robbie, Campbell accomplishes the formidable task of illuminating the complex feelings and issues that confront his seemingly ordinary people. (Apr.)
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