cover image River of Heaven

River of Heaven

Lee Martin, . . Crown/Shaye Areheart, $24 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-307-38124-8

Pulitzer finalist Martin (The Bright Forever ) returns with a meandering, convoluted tale of an elderly gay man who gets jolted from his lonely life. Sammy Brady’s quiet existence with his basset hound, Stump, gets interrupted by neighbor Arthur after Arthur’s wife dies. Outgoing Arthur places himself in Sammy’s tiny orbit, and the two are soon building a ship-shaped dog house for Stump while Sammy ruminates on a secret he’s not ready to reveal. When a reporter for the local paper shows up to interview Sammy about the unorthodox dog house, the experience jars Sammy; the reporter is a relative of Dewey Finn, Sammy’s childhood friend who mysteriously died on a railroad track. The slow pace picks up when Maddie, Arthur’s granddaughter, arrives. Cal, Sammy’s alienated brother, is soon on the scene, jump-starting a complicated plot that involves the Michigan Militia and a violent antiques collector bent on securing an item Cal’s hiding. Not everyone survives what follows, and Sammy finally reveals the truth about his friend’s long-ago death. Martin crafts eloquent sentences, though he often succumbs to Sammy’s syrupy nostalgia and has trouble propelling a labyrinthine plot. (Apr.)