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 Once again, Coyle (after her fine debut novel, The Kneeling Bus, 1990) plumbs the past--this time within the brittle, corrosive psyche of a 91-year-old Floridian native--to uncover a lifelong secret shame whose racist core is crazily mirrored in a present-day setting of joggers' trim front lawns and smug tolerances. ``Who could have thought the sight of one black kid might ease the conscience of a man living in the past....?'' Ancient Tom Glover--living in his old home with gentle daughter Lois and her husband, Paul, an Alzheimer's patient--was raised by his harsh, proud father to ``boss men and shame the women.'' Now, Glover becomes crafty, scheming as he watches young boys, all from affluent, educated families, fish in the lake. One Halloween he lures in a trio, discards one and hires on two--Ted, the black kid, is the prize--for the daily job of escorting sweetly polite, nearly vacant Paul on local fishing jaunts. It's a gift for Paul--but from Glover's simple act grows a curious swell of neighborhood hostility. It's Glover's visiting great-grandson Petey (he hates the growling old man) who will witness the violence at the lake. Meanwhile, Glover is buffeted by freshly surfaced memories of a terrible betrayal in his boyhood, scorching shames that float up like ``bloated bodies.'' And Lois, driven against her own wall of despair by the death-in-life of a beloved spouse, deals with neighborhood calumny. All the while Petey clings to his secret. But at the close the three connect--and confront the enemy. Early episodes of ugly cruelty argue against the sunset- ending, and the tone is further disturbed by Coyle's faintly hortatory working-through of the two races as separate ``free- floating spheres,'' but her view of the Alzheimer's tragedy is arresting--and heartbreaking. Again, this author reveals her skill in catching the sudden, inexplicable stabs of passion in the troubled voyages of solitary lives.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-395-57437-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993