Elegy for Sam Emerson

Hilary Masters, Author . Southern Methodist Univ. $23.95 (275p) ISBN 978-0-87074-507-2

Veteran writer Masters (Last Stands ; Shadows on a Wall ) offers a heavily sentimental account of a Pittsburgh restaurateur's life that, for better or worse, stylistically mirrors his subject's touch-and-go upbringing. Sam Emerson's early years were spent on the road with his actress mother, Edith "Edie" Olson, and photographer father Owen Emerson; wild success eludes Edie, and Owen disappears in France during WWII while on assignment for Look magazine. Sam finds stability on his Aunt Rhoda's Ohio farm before enrolling at Hotel School at Penn State, where he meets future business partner Sterling Wick, who helps Sam launch a successful restaurant with views that allow Sam to "[breathe] in the panorama of Pittsburgh." Edie's imminent death leads Sam to take stock of his life, a messy process involving a litany of flashbacks in which memories of Sam's parents and ex-wife tumble over one another. After Edie dies, Sam concentrates on sorting things out with his much younger girlfriend, Phoebe, and locating his father's unmarked grave in France. Masters's writing is sharp, but while his circuitous storytelling shows occasional inspiration, the reader is more frustrated than inspired. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/22/2006
Release date: 06/01/2006
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