JEWELS OF CHANGE by Arthur Nello


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A strange fictional menagerie of intertwining domestic plots and dreamscapes.

Nello’s first novel explores the ever-shifting sands of one man’s understanding of himself and his world. The discoveries yielded by such self-exploration might make for an engaging tale, were the overarching storyline easier to follow. Unfortunately, the novel is parsed into three somewhat insular sections linked only by their relation of different phases of Joseph Prigione’s life. The most clearly defined chapters outline the haunting domestic scene Joseph endures as a child growing up in working class Newark, N.J. The eldest of three sons born to a paranoid schizophrenic mother and an alcoholic, work-obsessed father, Joseph attempts early on to reckon with his parents’ baffling behavior, particularly his mother’s wildly erratic mood swings and violent outbursts. Looking back as an adult, he realizes there are things he still doesn’t quite understand about her: “His mind could hardly comprehend that so much chaos had swirled over the years, from one who now appeared in her old age meek and who, in her most sober and rational moments, was beautiful, even angelic…Of her three sons, his was the duty, and the blessed curse, to forge their story.” The subsequent narrative that emerges from such strife is a New Agey take on the ravages of a broken home. Later trauma, like his brother’s being killed by a drunk driver, prompts Joseph to drift in and out of various dream montages, as he and his wife Victoria attempt to escape the bonds of their ‘caged’ lives by fleeing the materialism of America for the unvarnished spiritualism of India and a Tibetan monastery. Though the work’s major insight, that children represent the jewels of change, resonates nicely, one must endure too many convoluted episodes to arrive at the conclusion.

A turgid tale of aimless adulthood.

Pub Date: Feb. 12th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-595-41648-6
Program: Kirkus Indie
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