cover image The Road to the Island

The Road to the Island

Tom Hazuka. Bridge Works Publishing Company, $22.95 (211pp) ISBN 978-1-882593-23-1

When marathon runner Big Jim Dolan is killed jogging one night in the small Connecticut town of Newfield at the start of this earnest debut, it falls to his younger son and namesake, a 32-year-old college professor, to solve the mystery surrounding his father's death. Flying home for the funeral forces Jimmy to confront other ghosts as well, notably a brief affair with a high-school teacher that culminated in tragedy and the feeling that he and his brother, Gary, disappointed Big Jim--Gary by evading the Vietnam War and Jimmy by turning his back on Newfield four years earlier, leaving behind a wife and young son. Jimmy feels guilty about practically everything, including his brother, who mows lawns for a living, and his mother, an ""emotional miser,"" who refuses to grieve for her husband. Despite a good deal of sentence-to-sentence banality (""`Jimmy, what about my job!' She paused. `What about us?'""), Hazuka's first-person narrative gathers tension as it gradually reveals Jimmy's past. But when Jimmy discovers he's been cruelly deceived by those closest to him, the characterization falters--he can't seem to get angry. Otherwise, the novel presents a convincing if unmemorable portrait of a sensitive young man struggling to make things right in a world where, most often, everything goes wrong. Agent, Writers House; editor, Barbara Philips. (Sept.)