The Punch

Noah Hawley, Author . Chronicle $23.95 (308p) ISBN 978-0-8118-6429-9

In his third novel, Hawley (Other People’s Weddings ) traces the path of Scott and David Henry as they prepare for their father’s memorial service. Younger brother Scott—stuck in a dead-end job, failing in love and a frequenter of San Francisco strip clubs—is saddled with his alcoholic, self-destructing mother, Doris, on their trip to New York. Scott’s successful sales executive and closeted bigamist brother, David, shares Doris duty while navigating memorial service preparations and secretly juggling marriages on both coasts. Along the way, a family secret is revealed, two hotels are nearly blown up and the trio explores what it means to be a family. Unfortunately, Hawley’s asides on physics, religion and the nature of time distract from the plot without adding to it, and the occasional dud sentence pops up (“Now they circle their wagons and eye each other warily from the high towers of their castles”). However, the characters—especially Doris—and humorously handled uncomfortable situations (as when David’s two wives meet) somewhat mitigate these shortcomings, and the memorial service at the legendary White Horse Tavern provides a rollicking climax. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/14/2008
Release date: 05/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
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