Tom Piazza, Author . ReganBooks $24.95 (245p) ISBN 978-0-06-053340-3

This richly textured but uneven first novel by Piazza (Blues and Trouble) opens with John Delano, a Connecticut college professor of Cold War Studies, trying, unsuccessfully, to pen John Delano's Cold War, an unorthodox opus that looks at events as "pure phenomena." Analyzing surface and image (instead of "boring history stuff," as a former student puts it) has earned John popularity in the classroom, but some disdain in the faculty lounge for his "History McNuggets." When his father, from whom he was estranged, dies, John's concentration fails him; instead of writing, he recollects his turbulent childhood: his father's steady decline into mental illness, his mother's struggles and love affairs, the growing despondency of his brother, Chris. John narrates his youth with spot-on 1960s details—Johnny Carson hosting Don Rickles, the Summer of Love, the pot fumes—and poignant personal memories, from meeting his wife, Val, at a labor conference, to the pain of his mother's death. Struggling to free himself from writer's "limbo," John calls Chris, to whom he has not spoken in years, proposing to visit him in Iowa; he imagines that he will scrap his Cold War book and instead write a memoir about their reunion. Their time together is awkward, poignant—and might have been the start of a renewed relationship. But John's discovery that Chris is involved in a racist group sparks another conflict, and John's subsequent decision to visit the house he grew up in provides the novel's heartbreaking final pages. The academic play of the novel's opening feels flat in comparison to the powerful longing at its end, but this is an incisive portrait of a man, his troubled family and their place in history. Author tour. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/04/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 245 pages - 978-0-06-053341-0
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