Going Under

William Luvaas, Author Putnam Publishing Group $23.95 (318p) ISBN 978-0-399-13968-0
Jerri, Don and their three children are a 1960s suburban family in picturesque Millford, Ore.: affluent, attractive-and dysfunctional. In his second novel, Luvaas (The Seductions of Natalie Bach) skillfully peels away the layers of deception in the Tillotson family to reveal three generations of trauma and abuse. His exposure of the clan's painful history, seamlessly narrated from several points of view, begins with Jerri's attractive and astute sister Deborah noting that Jerri is drinking more than usual. The reasons are soon made clear. Not only is Jerri gradually becoming aware that her husband is unfaithful, but she fears that he is sexually abusing their 11-year-old daughter, Meena-a repetition of a nightmare from her own past that she has never escaped. Hoping for renewal, Don moves the family to California, but matters only deteriorate as he becomes sexually aggressive with Deborah, Jerri's drinking escalates and Meena's half-brother rapes her, seemingly pushing her over the edge of sanity. The children's digging of a huge tunnel in Oregon, their life over an earthquake fault in California and an obsession with the La Brea tar pits help conjure up a sense of a continuing downward spiral and an impending collapse. A surreal and frightening air prevails as guilt, aggression and madness escalate in this powerful evocation of family members coming to grips with their crimes against one another. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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