LETTING LOOSE by Christopher T. Leland


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 Leland (Professor of Aesthetics, 1993, etc.) offers a reprise of the angst and anxieties of the last two decades when three disparate but representative characters look back as the body of a longtime friend is brought home to be buried. Taking place in the days before and after the funeral of Bobbo Starwick, missing in Vietnam for nearly 30 years, three people interweave memories of him with accounts of their own lives since he disappeared. Belva, who was Bobbo's first lover in high school, and Fred, a fellow Vietnam vet and Bobbo's high-school friend, still live in Rhymer's Creek, West Virginia. Barry, the third member of the trio, is Bobbo's gay half-brother, who fled the town 20 years ago for New York. Bobbo was one of those golden boys whom everybody loves: the perfect brother, friend, and lover. But something happened to him in Vietnam. Fred, who saw him there, observed the change, as did his parents when they met him in Hawaii: The war had taken over and Bobbo had become a ferocious killer. Fred himself has never recovered from the war: He can't hold down a job, is troubled by nightmares and, by the day of the funeral, is so undone by memories of the war that he has to be hospitalized. Businesswoman Belva, wanting something more out of life, hitched up with a rich classmate from Tennessee, but the marriage soon broke down and she married safe and dependable Wallace, who doesn't seem to know that she's had numerous lovers over the years. Barry, who has become a photographer famous for his Mapplethorpe-like shots, recalls his antiwar activities in college, his coming-out in New York, and the loss of the only man he has loved to AIDS. With Bobbo laid to rest, the three finally find some peace of their own. All the highs and lows of those times, revisited by a trio who seem more like stock figures than the scar-bearing bereaved.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-944072-69-0
Page count: 384pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996