W. Glasgow Phillips, Author, W. Glasgow Philips, Author William Morrow & Company $20 (190p) ISBN 978-0-688-12861-6
Phillips's debut packs atmospheric wallop as it conveys the simmering heat and playing-with-fire tension of the summer of 1972 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Narrator Billy Mitchell, 22, loafs contentedly between shifts as groundskeeper at a mental institution. He's preoccupied with an old family mystery: he vaguely recalls that his mother and her maid, who were secretly lovers, died in a fire as they were fleeing Tuscaloosa years before. Now that he's been to college, Billy imagines that he can fathom such life-altering past events, but he's about to be brought rudely to reality--by suspicions of his father's role in his mother's death, by the psychiatric patient who is his girlfriend and by the maid's son Nigel, a young black man. Much of the drama hinges on Billy's inability to recognize how condescending his attitude is toward ``lunatics'' and toward Nigel, whom he insensitively views as a romanticized ``motif'' in the story of his mother's death. Given the year and the locale, Billy's naivete about race and individuality is not quite credible, but his self-centeredness rings absolutely true. Phillips often presents plot elements in the same dreamy soft-focus as the protagonist's reveries, but his ability to sustain an engaging, witty narrative voice bodes well for this promising young writer. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/1994
Release date: 01/01/1994
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-452-27439-6
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