Ann Patchett, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $21.95 (305p) ISBN 978-0-395-69461-9
Following her well-received debut, The Patron Saint of Liars , Patchett convincingly portrays a bar manager's conflicted feelings for a teenage waitress in this tale of fatherhood and unfulfilled dreams. Narrator John Nickel runs a bar called Muddy's on Memphis's Beale Street. He took the job to help provide for his lover, Marion, and their 10-year-old son, Franklin, who have since moved away, leaving him concerned that the boy lacks paternal guidance. When 17-year-old Fay Taft shows up at Muddy's, lies about her age and asks for a job, Nickel is touched by her neediness and hires her. But he doesn't bargain on her growing desire for him, or on her drug-dealer brother, who brings sleazy clients to the bar. Another complication is the issue of race--Fay is white, Nickel black--but the author concentrates on the color-blind moral problems that any family faces. As Nickel contemplates his own predicaments, he imagines scenes of the Tafts in a stable home before their father died. His sincere sense of responsibility--to his son, to Fay, even to Fay's no-good brother--is conveyed with visceral power, although the hard-boiled dialogue often resembles parody. Patchett's characters may include tough cookies with hearts of gold, but the novel is at its best when she mutes the melodrama and focuses on basic moral issues. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/1994
Release date: 10/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 246 pages - 978-0-06-133922-6
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-06-054076-0
Mass Market Paperbound - 246 pages - 978-0-8041-1388-5
Paperback - 273 pages - 978-0-547-52189-3
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-1-84115-049-9
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-345-43353-4
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-547-52415-3
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