Michael Grant Jaffe, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $24 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-26571-7
Following his well-received debut novel of the father-son bond, Dance Real Slow, Jaffe extends his reach into the tangled relationships between members of the Boone clan of Lukin, Ohio, a nuclear family composed of unstable elements. He traces the pubescence, adolescence and early-adult experiences of the three Boone children: Clem (Clementine), the eldest; middle child Sam (Samantha); and youngest, 11-year-old Garrett. The siblings are united in their wish to have a mother with a normal job and a father who is simply normal. Their mother, Mercer, is an OB-GYN whose abortion practice attracts virulent right-to-life protesters to the small, traditional blue-collar town; and their father, Kendall, is changing from a creative if eccentric artist into a mentally disturbed stranger. Jaffe captures the familiar small joys and frustrations of parenthood, incorporating Mercer and Kendall's complicated circumstances and unconventional personalities. Although his plot stacks the deck against the children, Jaffe is wonderfully attuned to the ordinary rites of passage that are agonizing for Clem, Garrett and Sam. Even as their parents edge toward disaster, the kids endure a myriad of typical teen humiliations, exploring sexuality and awkwardly lunging for freedom. Clem's go-fer job at a local teen TV show highlights her instant-recall memory, her geeky unpopularity and her self-denigrating comparisons to her sister. Sam's passion for playing ice hockey cools as she, the only girl on the boy's team, takes the brunt of adolescent macho aggressiveness. Finally Garrett, the most creative of the three, survives a tumultuous adolescence to lose his direction in young adulthood, staying the closest to Mercer as the inevitable tragedy looms. Although sometimes Jaffe's turns of phrase twist self-consciously, his finely tuned prose reclaims mundane, Midwestern America from flat '80s minimalism and movingly celebrates family life with acutely observed realism. Agent, Georges Borchardt. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
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