FULLER MAN by Diane Glancy


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The prolific Glancy (Flutie, 1998, etc.) continues her exploration of the sources and nature of religious faith. Hadley Willigie’s family, rooted in a small Missouri town, is loudly dysfunctional: her mother is stringently religious, embracing a harsh version of Christianity; her father is a tough-minded journalist, outdoorsman—and skeptic. Hadley, her brother Gus, and her younger sister Healey react in varied but equally extreme ways to the escalating battles over child-rearing belief between their parents. Healey becomes profoundly devout, Gus retreats into a seductive dreamworld, and Hadley, torn between a desire to believe and admiration for her charming father, frequently draws her mother’s ire. Looming in the background is Aunt Mary, their mother’s astringent sister, a woman absolutely convinced of the rightness of her disturbing, caustic, and intense version of Christianity. Glancy follows Hadley from childhood to middle age. She marries, becomes a journalist and a mother herself, and continues to wobble between despairing doubt and faith. Healey, meanwhile, becomes a missionary in Africa, returning home only infrequently and seeming more serene than her mother or aunt, but just as devout. Glancy seems to suggest that Hadley’s inability to enjoy life or connect fully with her husband or children has something to do with her inability to discover a healing faith. That changes, though, during a revival meeting, when a faith-healer, seemingly by the laying on of hands, is able to arouse in Hadley a restorative sense of belief and self-acceptance. Glancy’s determination to plumb an unfashionable question in fiction—how faith or the lack of it shapes and sustains our lives—is admirable, but it’s undermined here by a fragmented, sometimes cryptic narrative, by language that sometimes labors too hard to catch the tang and pace of real speech, and by Hadley’s wan character. Nonetheless, there are moving passages, and the battles over dogma and doubt are often fascinating. Well-intentioned, but more interesting for its ideas than for its characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55921-271-3
Page count: 200pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999


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