There is a certain poetry in failure, in giving up and drifting out to sea, that this first novel successfully mines. But it's a narrow vein that yields what is almost a short story. At 216 pages, Kennedy's debut book shares with the short story the sense that each turn of the page is bringing the reader closer to a foreordained end. The tale of a soured marriage is told chiefly through the sensibilities--often blurred by several fingers too many of I.W. Harper--of a public-relations man, Jack Sugrue, who works in New York and lives in the suburbs. His wife, Evelyn, also works, as a research sociologist, but as far as her interest in her job goes she might as well be a disconsolate 1950's housewife. Kennedy is apt in his portrayal of the large, decaying house they are saddled with, and of their two young children from whom they try to hide their marital malaise--unsuccessfully, of course. Passed over for promotion at work and disdained by his wife in bed, Sugrue has an affair with a secretary that begins in frank sensuality and rapidly descends into sadomasochism. Memories of Sugrue's lower-middle-class Irish upbringing weave in and out of the story like a plaintive tin flute. He senses that God may be mixed up in all this, that by drinking down his draft of bitterness he may achieve transcendence, but not many readers will share that hope. The writing is fine, except for occasional straining after poetic shadings, and the vision truthful, but the story is airless and overfamiliar. Still, Kennedy shows here that he has the stuff to give his characters greater scope, and his next book may well astonish.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1990
Page Count: -
Publisher: Watermark (149 N. Broadway, Wichita, KS 67202)