The Murderous McLaughlins

Jack Dunphy, Author McGraw-Hill Companies $16.95 (234p) ISBN 978-0-07-018316-2
Dunphy surpasses his previous novels and lauded biography of Truman Capote (Dear Genius) with this lovely story. The setting is again Philadelphia, circa 1917, centering on events preceding those in the author's debut in First Wine. Here the same narrator, four years younger at age eight, is known as ""the little missioner.'' His mission is to get his errant father Jim to return home to his family. Jim has left his wife and children to move back in with the ``murderous McLaughlins''the boy's grandparents, Mary Ellen and Jack, and his card-playing, hard-drinking uncles. But Mary Ellen, seeing in her grandson the fulfillment of dreams scorned by her feckless sons, cannot bear to let go of the child. Urging Jim to go back to the boy's mother and other children, she keeps the missioner, even taking him and his Uncle Tom on a trip to Ireland. The adventure is a high point among tales about the offbeat family's neighbors and the boy's experiences in a strange school. The reader is all but physically present as the poetic, sadly humorous story unfolds. We remain in thrall to Mary Ellen, unsinkable in spite of a disappointing life and a lasting influence on the boy: ``For she had taught me to love many waters, and to feel at home everywhere, the world being her country, as it is mine.'' (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Hardcover - 384 pages - 978-0-89621-225-1
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