cover image Reed's Beach

Reed's Beach

Bret Lott, George Ed. Weber. Atria Books, $20 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-671-79238-1

Heavy-handed symbolism and plenty of repetition ensure that even the least attentive reader will grasp the twin themes of mourning and renewal in Lott's latest effort. Three months after their young son Michael is killed in a freak accident, Hugh and Laura are offered the chance to live rent-free in a cottage on the southern New Jersey shore. During the course of a single, unusually warm February day, the grieving pair begin to come to terms with their loss. Laura finds succor in Roland and Winnie, a rather self-consciously down-home couple with a flair for the cliched and hokey dictum: ``Truth is, sweetheart, seems we just needed to come in here and have a good gab session.'' For his part, Hugh goes to his office, fends off his co-workers' sympathy, and has illuminating encounters with his boss's wife and with a neighbor. Interspersed between detailed descriptions of the couple's day are flashbacks of Michael alive and dead. Any superficial resemblance of the setting and subject matter to the likes of Anne Tyler or Alice Hoffman is undermined by Lott's contrived symbolism, portentous tone and ponderous statements. The author of Jewel has gone seriously awry in this banal and boring story. Author tour. (Oct.)