Frederick Barthelme, Author . Doubleday $24.95 (229p) ISBN 978-0-385-52729-3

In his first novel since PEN/Faulkner finalist Elroy Nights , Barthelme offers a strangely detached exploration of the post-Katrina Mississippi Gulf Coast. One year after the hurricane and a divorce, Vaughn Williams has more or less recovered from the shock of both. Renting a room from a younger woman who was widowed under mysterious circumstances, Vaughn slides into a low-key romance with his landlady. Their cordial yet detached friendship with Vaughn's ex-wife, Gail, is put to the test when Gail asks Vaughn and his girlfriend, Greta, to move in with her after she's assaulted by her new boyfriend. The change of scenery does little to simplify Vaughn's love life, and his strange new role stirs up his guilt surrounding the death of his father and estrangement from his brother. Oddly, though, Vaughn never seems overly concerned about the developments around him; Gail's new beau never emerges as a threat; and Greta does not seem bothered by the living arrangement. There are some beautifully written passages, but Barthelme's reluctance to break his characters' cozy familiarity makes it difficult for readers to engage with Vaughn's apparent struggles. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 11/03/2008
Release date: 04/01/2009
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!