A coy first novel featuring a blue-collar Virginia family whose house is slowly sinking—along with their collective outlook on life. Gibson's debut lacks the zip of some of its thematic predecessors (Geek Love, The Beans of Egypt, Maine) but finally engages the reader through sheer tenacity. From the day Joan realizes that her house in Virginia is gradually plunging into the earth, nothing seems to go right for the Demerest family. Already, Melissa, the eldest of Joan's four children, is in the throes of adolescent rebellion—experimenting with sex, drugs, and fast-moving cars. Then four-year-old Kevin pushes second-oldest Daryl down the stairs, while nine-year-old Brenda, a budding Young Republican, writes fashion advice for the school newspaper and schemes to become the next Nancy Reagan. Meanwhile, husband Kyle, who fills cigarette machines for a living, is no help to Joan as he shacks up with an unemployed blond; and though Joan continues to struggle against the forces that are eroding her family's life, the momentum of the Demerests' destiny proves too strong to combat. Soon the house sinks to its second- story windows, giant bugs invade the lawn, antisocial Kevin's strange genius for painting fades away at the onset of adolescence, and Melissa announces that she's a lesbian. When Daryl's skin turns green, causing him to quit school and join a traveling freak-show with Kyle's accommodating lover (leaving Kyle to wander the streets as a homeless, unemployed drunk), Joan begins to understand how impossible life is to control—and how only in letting go can any joy be found. Often depressing when it means to amuse; still, a brave and intriguing debut.
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