John Fulton, Author . Picador USA $13 (192p) ISBN 978-0-312-27675-1

Fulton bends the generic coming-of-age plot line to explore the effects of poverty and anger on a blue-collar Salt Lake City family in his first novel, which begins when 15-year-old Steven Parker and his sister, Jenny, are attacked by a Mormon gang. Steven's shoulder is dislocated in the scuffle, and a hospital visit puts a strain on the family's resources. Parker's family lives the high life for a brief period when the attacker's embarrassed father foots the bill for the boy's medical care, but once Parker's down-and-out, erratic father, Billy, goes through the money, the Parkers are once again forced to rely on Steven's mother, Mary, for support through her job as a nurse's aide in a rest home. But Mary has a twist of her own in mind when she tires of dealing with her husband's anger problems and takes up with a lawyer she meets during his visit to the rest home. Their impending union leads to an attempt to introduce Steven and Jenny to the lawyer's kids, but the effort to engineer an expanded family unit backfires when Steven's temper surfaces during his visit to the lawyer's house. Fulton's fast-moving prose and his knack for quirky scenes keeps the opening chapters interesting and unusual, and this might have been a compelling book had he increased the size of the attacker's award and stuck with the subplot of the Parkers living high on the hog. But the story line degenerates into genre cliché once Fulton focuses on the family issues, dimming the efforts of a talented writer who duplicates much of the promise he showed in Retribution, his debut short story collection. Author tour. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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