TOBY'S LIE by Daniel Vilmure


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 Gay high-school senior Toby Sligh, a believable, often amusing character, flounders about in an unconvincing story. With its faults, Vilmure's second novel at least marks a change from his first, Life in the Land of the Living (1987), a murky tale of death and redemption. While also set in Tampa, this new effort deals primarily with Toby's coming of age. Vilmure's best passages--and the novel's most unified elements--concern lying. ``Lies are God's weeds,'' says a priest who is dying of AIDS; ``The falsest things have a bit of truth in them,'' says Toby's lover, Ian. The lie of the title concerns Toby's parents, who have just split up. His zany mother doesn't want his father to know where she's gone or why, and Toby vows not to tell. In an exchange of duties, Ian agrees to keep an eye on Toby's mother, while Toby undertakes to befriend the dying priest. This results in some lovely scenes between Toby and the priest in which Vilmure is able to reflect on Catholicism, homosexuality, and death. Even so, the reader wonders why Toby isn't keeping in touch with his mother, rather that turning the duty over to Ian. Moreover, since these two plotlines don't constitute enough action for a novel, Vilmure must stir in a black student named Juice. Juice, naturally, is a crack dealer. Toby gets caught between friendship and the law as the detective investigating his mother's ``disappearance'' begins chasing after Juice as well--and then after Toby, who hides drugs in his mother's Corvair. Finally, in another unmotivated and incredible twist, Ian runs off with Toby's mother. Vilmure does individual scenes nicely, has an ear for dialogue, and his flippant young narrator often recalls Holden Caulfield. But the elements of his plot just don't add up.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-80204-X
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995