Extraordinary People

Paul Gervais, Author HarperCollins Publishers $20 (210p) ISBN 978-0-06-016618-2
A series of wry, profoundly sad stories are loosely woven into a first novel chronicling the emotional chasms that yawn between blood relatives. The title notwithstanding, the Beelers of North Tewksbury, Mass., are extraordinarily ordinary people, even in their tragedies. The family linchpin is wife and mother Meg, a beautiful, restless, shallow woman dissatisfied with her mundane life. Meg drinks too much, resulting in outrageous behavior that prompts her stolid husband Gerald to withdraw from his own family while lavishing love and attention on his brother's children. The Beelers' theatrical older son Cliff eggs Meg on, dubbing her ``Baronness'' and ``Aretha,'' and screaming with laughter at her antics. Sam, the youngest son and the poker-faced narrator who longs to be adopted by a picture-book family, is both appalled by Meg and grudgingly admiring of her, angry at his father's defection and baffled by Cliff. As years pass, his secret wish to be an orphan seems likely to be granted, as the Beelers are whittled down by cancer, AIDS and, in Meg's case, a dementia that causes the reader to laugh and wince. Meanwhile, having escaped to Italy, Sam flatly vetoes his lover Fred's bid to adopt a child. This sometimes self-consciously metaphorical debut has sufficient grace, sharp-eyed observation and humor to balance its pain. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-06-092370-9
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