A Visit Home

Will Aitken, Author Simon & Schuster $19.5 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-74707-7

Daniel Kenning, the hero of this unsatisfying novel, is a successful architect with a happy marriage. Then the unexpected death of a colleague thrusts him suddenly--and inexplicably--into despair. After consulting a psychotherapist, Daniel slowly begins to remember that, as a child, he was sexually abused by his tyrannical father. Set in Montreal, Vancouver and Tokyo, the book traces Daniel's coming to terms with his shattering childhood experience. Aitken ( Terre Haute ) is at his best during his protagonist's two visits home, revealing the poisonous family dynamic with subtle acuity, as when Daniel's emotionally disconnected mother protects her husband by denying her son's revelation. Unfortunately, the novel has the feel of a case study; the protagonist's progress is painstakingly charted from crisis to discovery, resistance and integration, and Daniel's continual weeping is not enough to bring his pain to life. The secondary characters are flat and implausible; indeed, several of them--as well as a number of scenes--could have been left out with no adverse effects on the choppy narrative. Though it may prove edifying for sexual abuse victims, this account of one man's ordeal has limited appeal. (Feb.)
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