cover image Stranger, Father, Beloved

Stranger, Father, Beloved

Taylor Larsen. Gallery, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5011-2475-4

The delicate balance of family relationships, and the yearning for something more, lie at the heart of Larsen's debut novel. Many of the components%E2%80%94both Michael and Nancy feel restless in their marriage, and their teenage daughter Ryan is struggling with the many changes adolescence brings%E2%80%94feel familiar and even a bit retro (think Updike or Cheever). At 42, Michael is lost and views almost everyone he encounters, whether old friend or new acquaintance, as a road not taken. He even traces his failing marriage back to "an awful woman from Georgia" whom he blames. When Michael becomes inexplicably fixated on a party guest named John, he hatches a plan: to replace himself in his family with John. Nancy, for her part, is similarly drawn to the turning point of their wedding, and also secretly feels that much has been lost. Ryan is oppressed by the "dreary energy of their house." She feels much closer to her longtime friend, Carol, and Carol's mom, Jill. As high school puts a wedge in the relationship of the two girls, Ryan and Jill are, strangely, bonding. Ryan's younger brother, Max, is adored by his family, and is arguably the glue that holds them together. Larsen makes her elements fresh with the quiet authority of her prose and the ease with which she transitions from the perspective of one main character to another. This is an intimate and involving story by a promising new voice. (July)