cover image Looking for Heroes

Looking for Heroes

Patricia Grossman, . . Permanent, $26 (248pp) ISBN 978-1-57962-149-0

An uneven but affecting tale of suburban familial angst, Grossman's fifth novel follows Brian in Four Seasons . It's 1998, and Emma Mallick, at midlife, is weary of her sterile life in a gated community in Foster Mills, Long Island. She's been fired from her long-tenured social worker job, and her marriage to Gerald Strauss, a radiologist in private practice with a history of depression, is shaky and largely sexless—even Viagra fails them. Emma fills her days by administering her late father David's art estate, while Gerald sees hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Mallory and studies biographies of do-gooders like Albert Schweitzer. The Clinton sex scandal dominates news and conversation, and this tired motif holds up a derisive mirror to Emma and Gerald's own hangups with intimacy, trust, and caring. Meanwhile, their gay son, Aaron (a stock figure), and Gerald's aging racist father, Sid (very credible), add to the sense of upheaval. Emma and Gerald can sense their disconnectedness, but can't find a way to bridge the gap. This serious-minded novel's shorter, final section shows Emma and Gerald finally overcoming their various anxieties and paralyses. While Grossman makes quiet desperation palpable, her tendency to overexplicate gives the proceedings a fussy air. (Apr.)