Toby's Lie

Daniel Vilmure, Author
Daniel Vilmure, Author Simon & Schuster $20.5 (272p) ISBN 978-0-684-80204-6
Paperback - 978-0-06-097694-1
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-7475-2365-9
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Narrated by a gay Catholic high-school senior who refers to Dostoyevski as ``my main man,'' Vilmure's second work (after Life in the Land of the Living) is animated by a ferocious intelligence. But it also suffers from a self-consciousness of which only a part can be attributed to Toby Sligh, the precocious, awkward protagonist. The rest falls on Vilmure, who occasionally slips from writing about adolescence into writing like an adolescent. In a colorfully rendered Tampa, Fla., Toby picks his way through an emotional minefield in which he knows few truths. His mother has moved out on his father without giving a reason. His best friend, Juice, seems to be a thriving drug dealer who speaks black street patois and sends notes in Latin. When Toby sees his father playing pickup basketball with a man who may be Juice's drug competitor, the various worlds in which Toby moves begin to bleed into each other. At the request of his lover, Ian Lamb, Toby is tending Elijah Scarcross, a Jesuit priest dying of AIDS who asks Toby to be his voice of truth. This is hard on Toby, who's caught up in a web of lies. Desperate for a truthful gesture, Toby fixates on the notion of dancing at the prom with Ian, a one-eyed swimmer whose past is replete with secrets. Surprisingly, Vilmure pulls this overcrowded life together neatly at the end, so that Toby confronts the truth of his parents' relationship, learns about the ties between Ian and Father Scarcross and uncovers the true nature of Juice. The final waltz at the prom provides a scene so full of irreverence and pathos that one can forgive the trespasses of a dozen frantic, sophomoric scenes. (May)
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