Williams' third novel (State of Grace; The Changeling)--an absurdist tale of a husband and wife who break into, and live in,...



Williams' third novel (State of Grace; The Changeling)--an absurdist tale of a husband and wife who break into, and live in, the houses of absent rich people on Florida's gulf coast--never transcends the self-conscious weirdness of its premise. A few compelling characters save Williams' ponderous book from the junk-heap of trendy fiction that deals in ""anxiety"" and ""malaise."" But these affecting souls aren't Willie and Liberty, the housebreakers whose story this is. Their tale involves a search for things--home, family, love, salvation--but they don't seem to know or care why. One a thief, the other a depressive, Willie spouts self-serving philosophy (""All worldly pursuits and acquisitions have but two unavoidable and inevitable ends, which are sorrow and dispersion""), and Liberty, his zombified wife, frets that ""her moments [in life] lacked incident."" As a child, she was left to live with Willie's God-fearing folks, who were a relief from her own strange parents: her frantic mother who ""practiced attitudes toward disaster,"" and her boozy father who lost his dental practice for prescription misuse and tax fraud. After a teen pregnancy and their failed suicide pact, the couple began their life together as drifters, along the way picking up ""Clem,"" a big white Alsatian dog who was ""always reminding people of things,"" including of course ""Moby Dick."" While Willie walks ""through life a welcome guest,"" Liberty worries about getting caught. A few bizarre encounters prove that Willie, who goes around literally saving people, is really an angel of death, and that Liberty, for some unclear reason, makes life better for a few appealing individuals. There's Little Dot, the brain-damaged innocent daughter of ex-junkies; and Teddy, the precocious seven-year-old who hangs out in a banyan tree, rejected by his white-trash father as a bad memory of his lesbian wife; and there's Charlie, an alcoholic real-estate agent, madly in love with Liberty, and full of a manic wit that testifies to Williams' otherwise suppressed skills as a writer. Goofy insights accumulate in a listless narrative that threatens utter banality.

Pub Date: June 6, 1988

ISBN: 0394757734

Page Count: -

Publisher: Vintage/Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1988

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