CHILD OF MY RIGHT HAND
A gay adolescent boy's coming of age tests the social fabric of a small Midwestern town in Goodman's poignant fourth novel, inspired by his experience with his own son's sexuality. Simon Barish is the openly gay son of academics Genna and Jack, who relocate from Cincinnati to take teaching positions in Tipton, Ohio. The pervasive smalltown homophobia and looming threat of violence keep the couple and Simon's younger sister, Lizzie, constantly on edge, while Simon's sweet but raunchy efforts to find his first boyfriend could land him in jail if he picks the wrong would-be paramour. Compelling parental subplots emerge when Jack, a social scientist, abandons his study of Nazi eugenics to examine the role of heredity in gay children, and Genna embarks on a search for her birth father. The book's greatest strength is its character writing, with Goodman compassionately presenting Simon's erratic charms as well as the foibles of Genna and Jack, each of whom is well developed enough to carry the book. The entertaining cast of gay secondary figures who surface on a family trip to San Francisco balance the narrative, softening the overall tension. Though the near-tragic ending feels rushed and formulaic, Goodman eloquently addresses many of the cultural conflicts that help define American family life in the early 21st century. Agent, Michelle Tessler. (Oct.)
Forecast: A vibrant, scrawly cover and a great blurb from T.C. Boyle should help this novel be noticed; the autobiographical subject matter could make Goodman an interesting interview prospect.
Release date: 10/01/2004