cover image Scar Lover

Scar Lover

Harry Crews. Poseidon Press, $18.5 (284pp) ISBN 978-0-671-74489-2

Although this demented and darkly humorous tale is billed as Crews's ( Body ) ``most mainstream'' novel, rest assured he hasn't gotten there quite yet. Acerbic college-dropout Pete Butcher loathes himself for accidentally causing his little brother brain damage with a claw hammer, and he is haunted by the sight of the dual dents on the child's forehead. On his way to a Jacksonville, Fla., warehouse--where he works with a Rastafarian whose wife repeatedly brands him to commemorate each year they are together--Pete encounters Sarah Leemer, a handsome, mesmerizing young woman with a golfball-like lump in her breast. Against his better judgment, he and Sarah become lovers and he is welcomed into her family, which includes a mentally unhinged mother who has just had a radical mastectomy and a father who complains of a bad heart ``the size of a watermelon.'' The suffering foursome have just achieved an uneasy peace when tragedy strikes them anew, launching its survivors into a gruesome, comical, grimly poetic night of graphic death and Rasta remedies. Pete's sudden responsibility to the Leemers serves to expiate his guilt over his brother; Crews admirably sustains his theme of disfigurement and healing, and if the finale is slightly ambiguous it still bears its author's trademark perverse twist. Author tour. (Feb.)