Peter Cameron, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-28197-7

Henry James would have liked Peter Cameron. The author of three well-received novels (most recently, Andorra), Cameron has a Jamesian love of conversation and a belief that when people venture into foreign countries they are revealed, if not at their best , then at least at their most interesting. In this captivating new book, Omar Razaghi, a young academic at the University of Kansas, is trying to write a biography of Jules Gund, a half-Jewish Uruguayan who published one celebrated novel before blowing his own head off (the top of which "came off like an egg," one character observes). Gund left behind a dysfunctional family including Caroline, his wife; Arden, his mistress; Portia, their daughter; Adam, his brother; and Pete, Adam's companion, who all remain shipwrecked on the same decaying farm in the Uruguayan hinterlands, unable to move forward with their respective lives. Omar needs permission from Gund's family to write an authorized biography and secure a substantial research stipend (he has already lied to the research committee, saying he has the authorization). When the family refuses, Omar travels unbidden to Uruguay, hurtling himself into a nest of relationships only a very talented writer could construct. Omar, an Iranian by birth who was raised in Canada, is an expatriate among expatriates; he says of Gund, "his life bridges worlds and cultures and religions." The same could be said of this complex book, which compresses issues of identity, belonging and connection among diverse peoples into one tiny Uruguayan homestead. Readers who immerse themselves in the Gund family's knotty presence will be impressed by the novel's intelligence and narrative drive. (May)

Forecast:Cameron has a core audience of gay readers, but he has always defied any narrow categorization. Here his investigation of larger issues, especially cross-cultural identity, should grant this highly readable novel broad appeal.

Reviewed on: 02/11/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-452-28430-2
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