cover image Haarlem


Heather Neff, . . Doubleday/Harlem Moon, $12.95 (225pp) ISBN 978-0-7679-1750-6

Abel Paulus Crofton, the biracial son of an abusive, alcoholic saxophonist and a Dutch mother he never knew, confronts his past in a journey from Harlem, N.Y., to the neighborhood's titular Dutch namesake in Neff's compelling fourth novel (after Blackgammon ). Like his father, 45-year-old Crofton, a New York City subway tunnel worker, battles what he calls "The Thirst," but has spent 12 years sober with the help of his friend and sponsor, Serge. Crofton's alcoholism is both a symptom of a childhood virtually devoid of love (save the nurturing of his paternal grandmother) and a cause of a reckless, promiscuous adulthood without meaningful human connection. When his father dies at the novel's start, Crofton sets off for the Netherlands in search of his mother armed only with her name, Justina van Gelder, and a desire to make peace with himself. In Amsterdam, he meets Sophie, a strong but tender recovering addict who makes him do the hard work of introspection and accompanies him on his quest for family, including not only his mother but a long-lost brother, too. Neff's gift for snappy dialogue propels this poignant book about hope: for love's redeeming power, the ability to forgive and the gift of second chances. (July)