From this American author and longtime London resident, a second novel (Deliria, 1994) about the crack-up of an Irish trucker and his daughter.
Bobby Pickering, a Catholic from a Protestant town in Northern Ireland, started to “go dark,” or experience depression, after his beloved mother died of cancer. He moved to London to play bass guitar with an easy-listening band. In 1985, he met Rosalie, an art student from California. Bobby was a sweet but utterly passive guy, whom Rosalie seduced and then, after becoming pregnant, insisted on marrying; yet she had no interest in her baby, Josephine, and returned stateside, leaving Bobby to raise her while driving his newly acquired truck. All this is flashback. The story opens in 1998, when Jo is 12; she has no friends and seldom attends school, accompanying Bobby on his long-distance rides. They stop for a hitchhiker, an up-and-coming American country singer/songwriter, Cosima Stewart (her lyrics punctuate the novel), and Jo becomes a groupie of Cosima and her band. A crisis occurs at the novel’s midpoint, five years later. Jo, having wormed her way into the band’s favor, has had drug-fueled sex with band member Rick, Cosima’s boyfriend. Relishing her new status (ex-virgin!), she flirts with passengers on a ferry ride to Ireland and is horrible to Bobby, who feels rejected and jumps overboard. The story now speeds up (no more flashbacks) while becoming increasingly implausible. In denial about her father’s suicide, Jo starts stalking Cosima, even following her to California. Hall is less interested in examining Jo’s possibly shattered though seemingly robust psyche than in sketching a contemporary Wild West, letting the clichés about guns rain down. After a violent confrontation with Cosima, Jo is sent to a nuthouse before being sheltered by her mother Rosalie (now an upright observant Jew) and eventually returning to England.
Damaged parent, damaged child, but Hall’s writing is not urgent or focused enough to make us care about their fates.