ROADS OF THE HEART

Christopher Tilghman, Author . Random $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-679-45780-0

A road trip turns into a vehicle for family redemption and reconciliation in Tilghman's heartfelt but clunky second novel (after 1996's Mason's Retreat ), which revolves around the efforts of a dying Maryland politician to put his affairs in order. Eric Alwin is the narrator, a disaffected middle-aged New York ad man who spends his weekends in Maryland caring for his father, Frank, a former politician who can barely speak or move after a debilitating stroke. The road to Frank's demise takes a sharp turn when he demands that his son accompany him on a difficult drive to Alabama to present his apologies to his estranged ex-wife. The trip succeeds despite some rough moments, but Frank is determined to get through a similar agenda with other family members. Gathering passengers along the way, father and son finally end up in Columbus, Ohio, meeting yet another (unexpected) relative. The concept of road trip as catharsis and reconciliation works well in the early going, but as the book progresses, the geographical structure makes the novel read like an awkward emotional travelogue, and the writing lapses into mawkish melodrama ("What is forgiveness? Is it choosing to ignore and overlook? Water under the dam? Is it a test, or an embrace?"). Tilghman injects little fresh life into his well-worn conceit. Agent, Maxine Groffsky. (July 20)

Reviewed on: 06/21/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 181 pages - 978-1-58836-392-3
Paperback - 212 pages - 978-0-8129-7431-7
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