cover image The Town Crazy

The Town Crazy

Suzzy Roche. Gibson House, $16.99 trade paper (276p) ISBN 978-1-948721-12-7

Singer-songwriter Roche (Wayward Saints) probes the secrets of a small American town in this immersive character-driven tale. In 1961, the usually serene Hanzloo, Pa., and its Catholic residents are unsettled after Lil O’Brien, a frustrated poet and the mother of seven-year-old Alice, develops what her husband, Jim, describes as a “disease of the soul.” The townspeople consider Lil crazy—she speaks in jumbled sentences, can’t keep herself or the house clean, and doesn’t look after Alice. No one knows Lil is suffering an emotional collapse over a decision she’d kept to herself. Then, Luke Spoon, a handsome artist, moves to town with his young son, Felix. When Felix and his classmate Alice are discovered after hours in the darkened cafeteria, huddled under a table, town do-gooder Clarisse McCarthy jumps to the conclusion that Felix exposed himself to the girl—an accusation that leads to a tragedy. Roche’s characters are memorable, if not unique. Clarisse’s two-faced gossiping and resentment of those who “hadn’t fallen under her spell” have been done many times before, and so has Lil’s bored housewife character (“Don’t get married,” she tells Alice). Still, Roche’s deep understanding of them will keep readers engaged all the way to the end. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman (Sept.)