Gerald Duff, Author . NewSouth $25.95 (300p) ISBN 978-1-58838-029-6

A 48-year-old slacker moves back in with his widowed father in Port Arthur, Tex., in the latest offering from native Texan Duff (Memphis Ribs). Recently laid off by British Petroleum, Waylon McPhee returns to his Gulf Coast hometown with vague notions of achieving the "escape velocity" necessary to move forward in life. He falls easily into a familiar pattern of interaction with querulous family members and wacky locals who have remained in the same place their entire lives. Taking a job as a substitute teacher in his former high school, Waylon discovers that the director of the school play is none other than Diane Dailey, one of Port Arthur's famous: she once had a small role on television's Dallas. Much to his chagrin, Waylon finds that middle age has done little to temper his awkwardness with women. While conducting a lukewarm affair with another woman and tentatively forging a friendship with Diane, Waylon must also contend with his sisters' meddling in their widower father's newfound relationship with Hazel Boles, a British divorcée, and the unexpected arrival of his gay son, Brian, who is creating a lip-synching act to honor Janis Joplin (Port Arthur's best-known progeny). Deft, often droll comedy is at the fore in Duff's story of people who may not have a lot going on, but who sure do keep trying to figure it out, in their own time. Hilarious scenes of family outings and school play rehearsals round out the realistic depiction of life in the oft-neglected other New South. Waylon may not exactly achieve any major epiphanies, but what he does learn is demonstrated with a wit and subtlety as simply satisfying as a tall cold one on a hot Gulf Coast afternoon. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/25/2001
Release date: 10/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
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