cover image The Way Life Should Be

The Way Life Should Be

William Dameron. Little A, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-66251-158-5

Dameron’s appealing debut novel (after the memoir The Lie) follows the travails of two families during a summer together in Maine. Nineteen-year-old Abbie, a troubled college dropout, moves into her father Thomas’s second home with his new husband, Matt. Also joining them in the 650-square-foot cottage are Matt’s daughter Bex, son Brian, and their cousin Conor. Matt also arranges for his ailing parents to live nearby. As the family members all keep secrets and tell lies, tensions arise. Bex has an eating disorder, Matt’s heavy drinking is concerning to Thomas, and Abbie struggles to forgive Thomas for abandoning her as a child. Added to the action is a strange episode involving a neighbor woman who parades around naked at midnight, and more amusing scenes of the perpetually shirtless Conor playing “Kiss or Slap.” While Dameron crams too much in, he manages to keep all the story lines taut, and the prose is reliably crisp (“Emma had a round face that was wide open like the blue sky”). Fans of Anne Beattie’s family dramas will admire this touching story. Agent: Christopher Schelling, Selectric Artists. (Aug.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misclassified the author's previous book.