THE TEST by Dorothy Bryant


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 In Bryant's A Day in San Francisco (1983), a middle-aged woman confronted the trans-generational implications of her son's gay ``outing'' and her own past defections from family. Here, again, a 50-ish daughter of a quasi-senile father scours the past, as well as the present's receding convictions, during an exasperating day with an elderly parent who evades, blames, bullies, and now and then reveals his loneliness and fear. It is daughter Pat's turn to spend the day with Dad in his house in a San Francisco suburb. This is the day of his driving test, which he will surely flunk again. Both irritated and amused, Pat listens to his ``confabulations'' (filling in memory gaps with fiction) as he insists he's already passed the test, watered the (dying) plants, bought a new car battery, etc. Alternately enraged and resigned as the day creeps on, Pat notices Dad's stinginess as usual (but then there's the poverty of his childhood in Italy to consider) and coolly listens to his moans of yearning for his recently dead wife (but did she ever have a chance to break loose from marital servitude, live a life?). There's a trip to the barber--where, communicating in clichÇs, Dad is one of the boys again--plus little errands and time-passers while the old man's mind-grating repetitions, complaints, and plaints go on and on. Throughout, Pat sets herself to examine--through the prism of a sputtering-out life--a family's times and passions and hasty choices, and finds no solutions to family conundrums or old hurts (her family's distress at her divorce, her son's homosexuality). The wryly comic close ends the day with Dad on a note of irony. Bryant's examinations of thorny, contemporary relationships have a docudrama punch, building as they do on sharp, harsh recognitions: a masterful portrait of an empty old age.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-931688-15-9
Page count: 150pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1991