This memoir of a childhood acquaintance who became a peripheral casualty of social turmoil is affecting despite a curious...



This memoir of a childhood acquaintance who became a peripheral casualty of social turmoil is affecting despite a curious remoteness. Loizeaux (Anna: A Daughter's Life, 1993) revisits the suburban New Jersey of his childhood to exhume the story of a charismatic schoolmate of mixed race, William ""Rabbit"" Wells, mistakenly shot and killed by a young police officer, William Sorgie, in 1973. This account of Wells's life and death is indisputably a structural marvel, nimbly flitting back and forth in time in a way that should be confusing but isn't, thanks to his unfailingly clear prose and his eye for the detail that instantly impresses a scene on the mind. Piecing together a fragmented image of Wells--and, much less distinctly, the still-living Sorgie--Loizeaux flirts again and again with the circumstances of Jan. 13, 1973, but leaves the heart of the matter to a powerful climactic narrative. But while precise, Loizeaux's style also exhibits a sort of contrived-sounding hauntedness. For despite apposite autobiographical touches, the book doesn't really establish the source of the author's depth of feeling for Wells, as manifested in sometimes almost incantatory writing and heavy-handed symbolism. And while the transitory presence Wells had, even for those who became closest to him, understandably makes for a dearth of solid facts 25 years later, Loizeaux's rather flat novelistic reconstructions of speculative events become unwelcome as they mount up, repetitively signaled by phrases like ""I can imagine . . ."" or ""I suppose. . . ."" Ultimately, the wounds seem to have healed long ago (albeit with visible scar tissue) and been overtaken by broader upheavals. Thus, this story's power resides in its careful reckoning of a personal loss, not in the ""echoes of our national life""--Vietnam, urban rioting--that he perfunctorily refers to. Still, a quietly heroic rescue of a pointlessly stolen life, and an evocative snapshot of an extraordinary moment in an ordinary place.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1998


Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

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