The Free Fall of Webster Cummings

Tom Bodett, Author Hyperion Books $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6209-2
Bodett makes like Garrison Keillor here, writing a novel that reflects the homespun values of a popular NPR series (in Bodett's case, The End of the Road) and several collections spun off from it (The Big Garage on Clear Shot, 1992, etc.). In the New Age mecca of Quartz Creek, Ore., old traditions find new appreciation as Bodett mixes homage and parody, celebrating all the colorfully absurd permutations of the American family. When Ed Flannigan, having lost his arm and his employability, reluctantly moves his family down from Alaska, he has no idea he will soon join a 12-step program for substance abusers, become a peach farmer and open his new home to some improbable family reunions. In Seattle, meanwhile, homeless amnesiac Oliver searches for his past--and perhaps his future--in his avid nightly dreams. From Avalon, Ohio, retirees Lloyd and Evelyn Decker head west in a flashy new RV to visit their inhospitable children and see some of the world. And Bostonian Webster Cummings, after surviving a freak accident that sucks him out of an airliner in mid-flight, sets out to find his biological parents. Bodett develops these stories as separate puzzle pieces to be assembled only at the end of the novel. His narration can be sketchy and superficial, with some characters never rising above type, and ambivalent in its stance toward central issues of family dysfunction, pop psychology and mysticism. He knows how to spin a yarn, however, and raise a chuckle, and will leave readers in good humor, with some insights gained. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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