Praying to a Laughing God

Kevin McColley, Author Simon & Schuster $24 (352p) ISBN 978-0-684-83761-1
As a mystery novel, McColley's adult fiction debut (he's the author of several young-adult novels) is a slow, static affair. But as a character study about the difficulties of dealing with old age, there's more than enough finely wrought, heartfelt writing to hold a reader's interest. Clark Holstrom's quiet retirement in rural Credibull, Minn., is threatened when a famous true-crime writer reopens the unsolved murder case in which Clark's best friend, Maynard, was once a suspect. At the same time, Maynard's wife dies and stroke-induced senility puts Maynard in the same nursing home where Clark's wife, Nora, lies in a deep coma. Clark has a lot about which to be depressed: his friend's misfortunes; the failure of his middle-aged son, who inherited the family hardware store; and his stale marriage to Nora. To assuage his pain, he stumbles into an affair with an elderly, artistic widow who cheers him up, but even this bit of good luck backfires when Clark deceives her about Nora's condition and then tries to introduce her to his son. The murder puzzle is resolved with a surprise at the end, but what makes this novel work are the fine characterizations and the author's realistic portrayal of old age. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/30/1998
Release date: 04/01/1998
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-4165-7275-6
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