America's vast and varied landscape brings a dysfunctional family's seemingly insurmountable problems and divisions into startling new perspective in this quirky, funny, often insightful first novel. After their mother's accidental death, Nate and Sarah Scales were largely raised by their control-freak older brother Grant; but as adults, they became estranged from him, and their own relationship is a contentious one. When Grant dies at the age of 42, both Nate, now an uptight reporter in Massachusetts, and ditsy, perennially career-changing Sarah are surprised to be included in his will. On their visit to his upstate New York home to settle the estate, they learn that Grant's claim, years ago, that their father had disappeared, was a lie; in fact, he had placed Ray Scales in a nursing home. Driving Grant's dilapidated van, Nate and Sarah set out to reunite what's left of their troubled family. The first-person narration is shared by the constantly quibbling Nate, Sarah and, from beyond the grave, the caustic Grant. Despite the variety of settings, nicely differentiated voices and energetic prose, the story becomes a bit monotonous once its agenda is clear--perhaps because the novel's most interesting character is already dead. While Hardy convinces the reader that his characters' neurotic behavior is the inevitable result of their difficult lives, their eccentricities are sometimes tiresome and their adventures a touch too zany. Yet when they reach the geological fervor of Yellowstone Park, the narrative avoids easy answers and takes on the ring of truth. The offbeat Scales family may not be to everyone's taste, but Hardy makes them amusing, annoying and real. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2005 Release date: 08/01/1996 Genre: Fiction
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