FAMILY REUNION by Barry Fleming


And Other Stories
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 The lead novella in this final and posthumous book is, aptly enough, a comic intrigue concerning a burial that manages, on the way to the family plot, to skewer a lot of southern and northern pretensions in vintage Fleming style (Captain Bennett's Folly, etc.). The narrator here, self-important womanizer Bob Otis, is busy bringing out his novel via a vanity press when a long-lost cousin from the North (``Up There'') calls, wanting to bring ``Dad'' home for burial in the family plot. Otis's wife has left, ``walking out with our five-year-old (who was becoming more real every minute like a negative in the developer).'' Even local members of the family-to-be-reunited can't remember each other's names, and things get further complicated when a black couple from the British West Indies with a similar name, having seen a Broadway play about the family homestead (by Lucinda Fannin of Lucinderella, 1988), arrive to avail themselves of the facilities. The comedy rolls along effortlessly, then comes up against a rather abrupt end, giving it an unfinished quality. Four short stories unevenly pad the collection: ``Afternoon in the Country'' and ``Happy New Year, Mr. Ganaway'' involve supernatural visitations or premonitions (the former, with overtones of ``The Open Window,'' is the more successful); ``War Memorial'' reflects on Nazism and the South in a hospital venue, while ``Beach Party,'' with an abandoned hostess in a leg brace, reads like an unintentional parody of Flannery O'Connor. A graceful writer with a good ear, Fleming is at his best with the wild yet fundamentally gentle satire on familiar turf that he brings off in ``Family Reunion''; the stories seem, by comparison, a writer's exercises and a publisher's afterthoughts.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1991
ISBN: 1-877946-08-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991