cover image White Guys

White Guys

Anthony Giardina, . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25 (371pp) ISBN 978-0-374-28144-1

The real-life 1989 murder of Charles Stuart's pregnant wife, supposedly by a black assailant, gripped Boston and exposed racial and class tensions that pulsed through the city's neighborhoods. Giardina's intelligent fourth novel (after Recent History ) riffs off those events, but keeps the focus on class and the title ethnicity. Growing up in working-class Winship, north of Boston, Tim O'Kane is an "ethnic runt," the lone Irish boy among a group of three Italians. He and two of his friends go to college and graduate into differing classes of good jobs—district attorney, real estate developer and, in Tim's case, textbook salesman. Tim marries a woman with a wealthy father, buys a house in the suburbs and finds himself alienated. Tim and Co. are regularly drawn back to Winship and to the company of their former group leader, Billy Mogavero, still charismatic but also still living at home. Tim and Billy pull each other into their respective worlds, with Billy getting taken up by bourgeois Boston—at least until Billy's new wife is murdered. Like Ron Carlson and Richard Ford, Giardina pinpoints the pleasures and anxieties that come with wife, children and a big front lawn. He keeps readers guessing about who committed the murder, but the real payoff is what the crime reveals about Tim's tightly manufactured life. (May)