TELLING TIME by Austin Wright


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A thoroughly imaginative tale of a family's rediscovery and re-creation of their dying father and themselves, by the author of After Gregory (1994), etc. Wright's story unfolds not only in the points of view, but in the thoughts and actual letters, speeches, dialogues, poems, and articles of its many characters. Thomas Westerly, a 72-year-old retired geology professor and college president, suffers a stroke at his home on a New England island, occasioning his many children and their various appendages to come form a deathwatch. Known to be ""a good man"" and a liberal, compassionate university president who's perhaps not suited to the politics of such a position, Thomas raised an unfailingly polite family, each member infused with his own love for writing and unwillingness to express real emotion. Their father suffered his stroke while attempting to intervene when a local bankteller, for unknown reasons, took his own family hostage. At first no one knows why, but Thomas approached the house and, shocked by the teller's warning shots, stroked out. Now, the family gathers, thinking death is near. The old man, though, begins to recover, then asks his oldest son to sort through his papers and remove anything unsuitable. Later, Thomas sneaks out of the hospital in the middle of the night, again headed for the hostage scene, and again suffers a stroke, this one fatal. More family arrive, each with their own relations to Thomas and to each other. Marriages collapse, secret love is had, and true feelings are slowly revealed. Meanwhile, Thomas's children, puzzled as to what exactly would be ""unsuitable,"" read through his papers, discovering that their reserved father had both a passionate and a dark side, parts of him they never previously benefitted from seeing. A wonderfully chaotic, unique look at a complex family--what they really think of each other, how they truly are, and how they got that way.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
Page count: 285pp
Publisher: Baskerville