cover image Under the Dog Star

Under the Dog Star

Joseph Caldwell, Author Viking Books $16.95 (229p) ISBN 978-0-670-81108-3

Propelled by misguided sexuality, this understated novel exerts a strong and often unpleasant grip. After Andy Durant is killed while robbing a gas station, his wife Grady collects their three children, Peter, Anne and Martha, and moves back to the farm where she was raised. All four Durants pivot around Royal Provo, a grease-monkey orphan worshipped by Peter and despised by Anne, who sleeps with him nonetheless. As the summer progresses, Grady imputes laughably complex motives to simple people and engages in a round-robin of rejection that claims at least one life. Later, the money stolen by Andy Durant surfaces to point an accusing finger at more than one of his brood. Despite lackluster passages, Caldwell strikes a consistently ominous tone, and his resolution is at once sharp and bittersweet. (May 8)