Almost Home

T. M. McNally, Author
T. M. McNally, Author Scribner Book Company $22 (240p) ISBN 978-0-684-84469-5
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-684-85445-8
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Shy Patrick McConnell, the hero of this richly detailed, sorrowful bildungsroman, moves to Paradise Valley, Ariz., with his mother, older sister and dog in the wake of his father's suicide and then watches his family fall apart as his sister also becomes suicidal and his mother retreats into an alcoholic haze. Fortunately, his dog, Germs, loves him unconditionally, and they escape periodically to compete in regional dog shows. Patrick also falls deeply in love with Elizabeth, a pretty classmate with a more benignly dysfunctional family life, and the two provide sanctuary for one other. Meanwhile, he works at a gas station with Elizabeth's delinquent ex-boyfriend, Bittner, a suspected drug-dealer who beat up Patrick before they became friends. Everything in Patrick's world seems precarious, ready to collapse or turn bad in an instant. A winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction, McNally (Until Your Heart Stops) captures much of the desperation and sad transience of young adulthood, and his renderings of Patrick's loving relationships are poignant and convincing. Many of the symptoms of family breakdown, however, are a bit hackneyed (and the shifts in narrative voice between chapters are often more disruptive than illuminating), but the novel succeeds memorably in playing out an interesting battle between the powers of love and despair. (June)
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