Afghanistan CL

Alex Ullmann, Author, Alexis Ullman, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $19.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-89919-968-9
Like so many protagonists of sprightly first novels, Patrick is a bright young man working at a glossy Manhattan magazine. Ullmann's Patrick is different, however--perhaps because the author and his hero are both Swiss-born. They have an odd, wryly despairing angle on New York life and on their native land in particular, and a tender and highly observant eye (noticing how a solitary drinker puts his wineglass back exactly in the ring it has left on the table, for instance). Patrick is somewhat in love with Irina Albers, a colleague on the magazine with an impossible expatriate family including a scapegrace brother, Michael, who has a drink-and-drugs problem but genuine charm. In the period that follows her invalid father's death, Irina and Patrick split up and he goes back to Switzerland in search of his past--as well as to write travel articles. Michael, sinking ever deeper, is in need of rescue, holed up in the South of France, and Patrick is beseeched to help. That's the essence of Afghanistan (the title comes from the images of derring-do brought to Patrick's attention by a globe-trotting friend); but it doesn't begin to do justice to its sweet nature, its life-enhancing spirit. Only a young man could have written it--albeit a young man with an inordinate amount of easy and entirely justified self-confidence in his talent. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1991
Release date: 08/01/1991
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