Remember Ben Clayton

Stephen Harrigan. Knopf, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-307-26581-4
Harrigan's austere latest (after Challenger Park) explores, with a dry swagger, art, secrets, and family in post-WWI America. After accomplished sculptor Gil Gilheaney is commissioned by Texas rancher Lamar Clayton to sculpt a statue of his son, Ben, who died in a battle on French soil, Gil and his daughter/assistant Maureen—an artist in her own right, though with blunted ambitions—travel from New York to the Clayton ranch to research Ben's life and work on the piece. Gil picks up quickly that there's plenty Lamar isn't telling him and becomes intrigued by Lamar's past: Lamar and his sister were kidnapped and raised by Indians, and the family of Lamar's housekeeper was massacred by Indians. Maureen, meanwhile, battles her own needs for artistic expression and independence, and a young man who was with Ben when he was killed and suffered a disfiguring injury gets pulled into the ranch's orbit. Harrigan doesn't shy from the gristle—the harshness of death on the battlefield, a lynch mob's mindless lust for destruction, screwworm flies festering in a calf's castration wound—and the secrets each character holds are grim and heartbreaking. The narrative's crushing sense of despair would be impossible to endure in the hands of a lesser writer. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4640-2471-9
Paperback - 353 pages - 978-0-307-94879-3
Open Ebook - 246 pages - 978-0-307-59669-7
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