Steven Gillis, Author . Brook Street $22 (272p) ISBN 978-0-9724295-5-9

Two men who've lost everything to violence and neglect struggle to redeem their lives in Gillis's uneven second novel (after Walter Falls ). Niles Kelly and Bailey Finne, both bright students in the fictional university town of Renton, have a great deal in common. Both are cursed with overbearing fathers—a bullying tycoon and an alcoholic laborer, respectively—and mothers who are absent or who died young. They've lost their girlfriends as well, Bailey to indifference and Niles to a mysterious terrorist bombing that also killed his father. They share a tendency to hurt themselves, too. Niles sleepwalks, but with a dangerous twist: while somnambulant, he stabs himself with a corkscrew and scrapes at his flesh with a metal file. Bailey, on the other hand, self-destructs while awake: an art historian and piano prodigy, he scoffs at finishing his dissertation and sabotages an important audition. Bailey and Niles join forces, figuratively and literally: Bailey drills a hole between their apartments and ties them together at the wrists to control Niles's nighttime movements. Despite their tragedies, Bailey and Niles are not particularly sympathetic characters; saddled with self-pity, they endlessly discuss their problems while doing little to address them. Once they take action, decamping to Algeria in search of the terrorist who killed Niles's father and girlfriend, the novel comes to life, and readers who persevere will enjoy the improbable but beguilingly mystical conclusion. Agent, Elizabeth Winick at McIintosh & Otis. (Jan. 28)

Reviewed on: 12/06/2004
Release date: 01/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
Discover what to read next