Donley Watt, Author . Texas Christian Univ. $24.50 (200p) ISBN 978-0-87565-256-6

A funky family from east Texas flirts with a variety of disasters in this latest by Watt (The Journey of Hector Rabinol), an entertaining yarn that revolves around the misadventures of 46-year-old Ray Reynolds Jr., a bright but underachieving liquor store owner from tiny Clear Lake Creek, who finds himself living in a trailer while trying to rekindle life's spark. Female trouble is high on Reynolds's list of issues, starting with his troubled relationship with Joy, a spunky young waitress who wants someone more serious than her bar-hopping partner. Fun-loving Reynolds also has a checkered history with his ambitious ex-wife, Sheila, and their two teenaged children, who are mere shadows in his life. But his immediate concern is his brother Perry, a disaffected schoolteacher who has begun stockpiling weapons with a band of his seedy buddies and getting himself in trouble for teaching his strange survivalist doctrine to his students. Most of the plot focuses on the ATF's investigation of Perry's affairs, but tragedy strikes closer to home when Reynolds's mother dies while he is passed out drunk in her house. Watt is a lively narrator from the Lewis Nordan school who creates a spirited crew of oddball characters and deftly uses the smalltown Texas setting to play up their various idiosyncrasies. But the subplot about Perry wanders into some midlife-crisis clichés, and the climax bringing his rebellion to a head is incomplete and disappointing. This is a fun read in terms of character and setting, but the ending detracts from an otherwise solid effort. (Apr. 3)

Reviewed on: 02/25/2002
Release date: 00/00/0000
Genre: Fiction
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