Once again, Cody (Eyes Like Mine, 1996, etc.) penetrates the fevered inner landscape of a victim. And here, unsettlingly,...



Once again, Cody (Eyes Like Mine, 1996, etc.) penetrates the fevered inner landscape of a victim. And here, unsettlingly, that victim--of outraged innocence, of corrosive institutions, and, above all, of sad and vacant people--is also a killer. In the blazing summer of 1988, in a Boston suburb, a 35-year-old man kills his parents and grandmother; ten years later he is awaiting execution and busy setting down his memoirs. As he tells his story, it's clear that Jackie Connor is the product of a badly warped family. There's Dad, thin, still as a statue, an alcoholic with an irregular work record, offering his son no protection at all from Gramma with her wild swings of love and rage (when she's angry, she beats Jackie and confines him to the cellar), and then there's Mom, wired with burning memories of the orphanage she was raised in. These are people who try to love but are slammed back to helpless grievance, ersatz life. ""You are no good,"" the boy/man says of his family and, by extension, of himself. ""Dirty, smelly, disgusting, greedy, lazy, dishonest, corrupt, weak."" Jack the man travels aimlessly, is institutionalized, medicated, lives a decorous life (he meticulously lines up his pill bottles) on the third floor of the family house and watches other houses in the dark to ""feel the life there."" Later, witness narrations dwell on his 1988 killings, trying (only a little) to understand the three week-old corpses, faces covered with white cloth. As Jack awaits his death, a strong voice of mercy and wisdom, belonging to Fr. Curran, enters the story. It is the elderly priest who has urged Jack to record his memories: ""To remember and to speak was a tiny way of working against nothingness."" Jack does so, writing almost up to the moment of his ""humane"" execution, creating a haunting account of the origins of violence and madness. A skillful novel of great power, anger, and compassion.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 1998


Page Count: 272

Publisher: Picador/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1998

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