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Jackson (The View From Here, 1997) returns with a genuinely moving if rather bloated tale of a young African-American man returning home to bury his father. Twenty-eight-year-old Jeremy “Patience” Bishop leaves Manhattan, where he is a successful and increasingly well-known photographer, for the funeral of his father, Christopher Bishop, and author Jackson provides an abundance of memories and events before unraveling the ambiguous history behind the relation between Jeremy and his father. The story opens as Jeremy arrives in his hometown of Elsewhere, Louisiana. His mother, though she died shortly after Jeremy’s birth, first compelled Christopher to give the toddler to Mama B and Aunt Jess to be raised. Because his father thus disappeared from the boy’s childhood, Jeremy is understandably conflicted over his return, uncertain in his feelings both toward the women who loved and raised him and toward the new family—his father’s second wife Carol and their children—that he’s related to mostly by strangeness. Jeremy’s encounters with childhood friends, and his reminiscences with Jess, one of Carol’s children, provide Jackson opportunity to reconstruct the finer details of Jeremy’s estrangement from his father and the context surrounding it. But the disparity between what needs to be known here to let the drama emerge and the amount that is made known can give the feel of an interesting short story’s being expanded to the size of a novel. The wait is long before we learn what the hard secret was behind Christopher’s abandonment of his son—even though that secret’s surprising twists are in many respects worth the wait and offer an intriguing and variant contribution to the theme of the “disintegrating African-American family.” Moving in its core idea—and in its ending—but Jackson, overall, has plumped too many narrative calories into an otherwise lean, and nicely told, story. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-671-56893-0
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998


FictionTHE QUEEN OF HARLEM by Brian Keith Jackson
by Brian Keith Jackson
FictionTHE VIEW FROM HERE by Brian Keith Jackson
by Brian Keith Jackson