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The quirky but eloquent story of a young southern writer who finds home and family with an eccentric and fabulously wealthy clan of New Englanders. Greer's third novel, and every bit as good as the well-received Slammer (1975) and Halloween (1978). Cody Walker of Glenn Springs, South Carolina, is a 22-year-old wouldbe writer whose father and mother are both dead, and who is essentially alone in the world--alone with his memories of his father's tales of the super-rich Beale family, for whom he used to work. One day, completely out of the blue, Cody receives a note from Chip Beale, the son of Cody's father's boss, Mallory Beale, tycoon and crony of Joseph Kennedy, Stalin, Eva Peron and Greta Garbo. Chip rather regally invites him to visit the family on their island, Black Island, off the coast of Massachusetts, and Cody takes him up on it. From the moment he steps foot on the island, he's surrounded by a bunch of eccentric but extremely interesting characters, such as the beautiful Harding Wicks, a lovely preppie with whom he has an affair, and Chip Beale himself, a hippie (this is 1973) who has studied with ""an Indian guru, a Shinto monk, a hand reader, a back reader, a Bangkok snake charmer"" in search of enlightenment, and ends up simply eating dirt. Cody doesn't meet old Mallory, but portions of his journal keep popping up in Cody's room, and in what is essentially a novel-withina-novel, Cody reads about Beale's extraordinary life as a tycoon, submarine captain, and lover of movie stars. Gradually, Cody forms the idea that he's actually Beale's long-lost grandson, and that his summons to the island is a kind of test, but a meeting with Mallory dispels that notion-the truth, it tums out, is far subtler, more painful, and more enlightening. At times overwritten and a little too melodramatic for its own good, but still an immensely likable and moving novel from a graceful and witty writer.

Pub Date: April 4th, 1986
Publisher: Doubleday