THE MISERABLES by Damien Wilkins


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 The death of his grandfather spurs a young editor to reevaluate his life--in this brooding, introspective first novel from New Zealander Wilkins. Brett Healey is the 30-year-old literary editor of a Christchurch, New Zealand, newspaper, is happily married to reporter Louise and reasonably satisfied with his job. But on the ferry ride to his hometown of Wellington for his grandfather's funeral, Healey ``felt that a passage was clearing in his life.'' His ``journey away from himself'' had begun during an unhappy year as a law student and continued during unproductive postgraduate work in the American Midwest. The three days Healey spends in Wellington with family members and old friends are time enough for a spiritual stock-taking. He recalls the people: his warmhearted grandfather, disconcertingly becoming a stranger even as more clues to his past surface; his naturalist brother, a model of quiet integrity; his wretched cousin, a former drug addict and mental hospital inmate. And he recalls the walks: the arduous family excursions arranged by his father, the far more exciting forays with a friend through off-limits suburban creeks, yielding images of neighbors in private moments. Wilkins crosscuts between these jumbled memories, conversations in Wellington, and inconsequential moments from the ferry rides out and back, yet no clear picture of Healey or his placid life's journey emerges: instead of epiphanies, we get handfuls of air. Healey tells an American audience that because of its extensive coastline, New Zealand is all edge, no interior. Wilkins's novel is all interior, no edge, and the interior is a dull one.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-160523-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993


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