MEETING THE MINOTAUR

Another wonderfully adventurous and imaginative novel from the highly praised author of The Waking Spell (1992) and Body of Knowledge (1994). Based on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and set initially in Dawson's native Texas, this is an extravagant—but engagingly believable—story of 22-year-old Taylor Troys (or, as he prefers, Deeds), a likable layabout who leaves his emotionally overextended family back in small-town Bernice and heads for Dallas to train himself as a cat burglar and track down the absentee father who didn't even stick around for his illegitimate son's birth. Encountering the elusive A.J. Deeds (and having survived hair-raising escapades among the ``Mexican Mafia''), Taylor is thrust into a tangled world of corporate intrigue and more-or-less entrusted with repairing his multimillionaire father's fractured relations with a rival Japanese conglomerate, the Minamoto Group, and embarks on a heroic journey to the Far East that will bring him to a tense, revealing confrontation with the notorious ``demon'' hidden away in a subterranean office. For all the narrative high jinks, Dawson's latest is a thoughtful, probing exploration of the truth that Taylor, in one of his quieter moments, admits to himself: that ``every child in the world ultimately dreams of his parents' perfect union.'' The painfully comic permutations of that truism are explored with ferocious wit in a sprawling narrative that holds in a brilliant balance its winning young hero's comic insouciance and moral backbone. Three terrific novels in five years, no less. It's time to put Dawson's name on the Contemporary Am Lit reading list.

Pub Date: July 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-56512-126-0

Page Count: 444

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her...

DISTANT SHORES

Another middle-aged mom in a muddle.

After years of false starts and big hopes, Elizabeth’s ruggedly handsome husband Jack, a former football star, just landed a spot as a sportscaster on national news. He still loves her, even though much younger women are giving him come-hither looks. Heck, he doesn’t want to betray the love of his life after she helped him kick drugs and stuck by him even when he was a struggling has-been. And won’t it seem hypocritical if he fools around with his sexy assistant while he does in-depth reporting on a rape case involving a famous basketball center? Well, he fools around anyway. Elizabeth, nicknamed Birdie, knows nothing of this, but she withdraws from Jack when her hard-drinking, salt-of-the-earth father has a stroke and dies. Now no one will call her “sugar beet” ever again. Time to return home to Tennessee and contend with Anita, the sort-of-evil stepmother so trashy she wears pink puffy slippers all day long. Naturally, it turns out that Anita actually has a heart of gold and knows a few things about Birdie’s dead mother that were hushed up for years. Mom was an artist, just like Birdie, and an old scandal comes to light as Anita unrolls a vibrant canvas that portrays her secret lover. Perhaps, Birdie muses, her mother died of heartbreak, never having followed her true love or developed her talent. Has she, too, compromised everything she holds dear? Hoping to find out, Birdie joins a support group that promises to reconnect confused women with their passion. She and Jack separate, prompting a how-dare-you fit from their grown daughters. Will Birdie fly her empty nest? Will she go back to college for a degree in art? Will her brooding watercolors ever sell?

Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her previous tales (Summer Island, 2001, etc.).

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-345-45071-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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