Family Fictions

Richard Hall, Author Viking Books $19.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-670-83784-7
The Shays of New Rochelle, N.Y., would seem to be a ``good'' family. Judd, the father, works in the lucrative family business; Margaret, the mother, is active in the Episcopalian church; Mag and Harris, the kids, do well in school. But their dirty little secret is their original name: Schanberg. What becomes of lives built on such ``family fictions'' is the subject of Hall's ( Letter from a Great-Uncle) voluble, unswerving new novel. Starting in the '30s, Margaret, driven by feelings of inferiority, begins making alterations (a move from New York City to the suburbs; joining the church), which culminate in the name change. During the '40s and '50s, family relationships, bound but undermined by a fundamental lie, deteriorate. Margaret tries with false insouciance to ignore the cancerous effects of denying their past; Harris, whose alienation is compounded by his homosexuality, begins to hate her. Finally, in the '60s, with Judd dead and Mag married with children, Harris and Margaret reach a detente of sorts. But, the author asks throughout, at what cost? The answer, as Hall's relentless and unsentimental exploration shows, is wasted potential and shattered lives. Although Mag and especially Harris, whose sexuality prompts him to come to terms with his identity, still have a chance for happiness, it's in spite of their sad birthright: ``pent-up hatred, ancient enmities.'' (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1991
Release date: 06/01/1991
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-14-014796-4
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