cover image The Easy Way Out

The Easy Way Out

Stephen McCauley / Author Simon & Schuster $19.5 (0p) ISBN 978

McCauley's The Object of My Affection was among the highly praised first novels of the 1980s. This beautifully written, heartbreaking book lacks the earlier novel's magnetism and spark, but is an eloquent depiction of the compromises lovers and families make to keep relationships alive. Narrator Patrick, a Cambridge, Mass., travel agent in his early 30s, lives with Arthur, an immigration lawyer; but for a long time, Patrick has been sleeping on an air mattress on the floor of their bedroom. His younger brother, Tony, plans to marry his high school sweetheart but is having an affair that is far more satisfying than his relationship with his fiancee. Their older brother, Ryan, is divorced, living at home and working at his parents' hopelessly unprofitable men's clothing store. And McCauley soon makes achingly clear that the parents' marriage is far from happy. The novel's deeply contemplative and melancholy mood is accentuated by the fact that there is little plot; its considerable drama arises from the clever, revealing dialogue and the reader's intense involvement with the sharply drawn characters. Most notable among McCauley's dysfunctional eccentrics is Patrick's uproarious, chain-smoking colleague Sharon, whose strategems for beating the airlines are priceless. Author tour. (June)