Roxana Robinson, . . Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25 (420pp) ISBN 978-0-374-27187-9
Julia Lambert is a New York art professor spending the summer in Maine with her elderly father, a domineering neurosurgeon, and mother, a gentle soul succumbing to Alzheimer’s. Julia’s oldest son, Steven, joins the clan as tragic news surfaces: her second son, Jack, is addicted to heroin. Ex-husband Wendell, Julia’s distant sister Harriet and Jack himself soon arrive, and intervention is on the agenda. Jack refuses to go quietly, and Robinson, who has worked in multiple genres (including penning a biography of Georgia O’Keeffe), engulfs the clan in a sea of resentment and repressed hostility, spiked with the intermittent need to feel close. Her unrelenting look at the deep physical and mental distress involved in heroin abuse is not for the faint of heart, with key portions of the drama unfolding through descriptions of Jack’s perpetually itching skin, twitching muscles, heaving stomach, needle-tracked arms and addled brain. While the omniscient narration sometimes loses focus, Robinson offers adept closeups of family trauma.
Reviewed on: 03/17/2008