HEART OF A FAMILY by Doug Finn

HEART OF A FAMILY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Finn's first novel (First Place winner in the Associated Writing Programs Award Series novel competition) encapsulates itself quite trimly in its title: Jesse Landow, a commercial door installer, takes his family on a late-1960s camper-trip through Arizona; and the first night there, while staying with friends, he has a serious heart attack. In the hospital, he has yet another. So the substance here is the family's reaction: how wife Mary and sons Marty (a trumpeter waiting for his draft notice), David (a would-be writer), and little Gary must improvise; what they do to live and occupy their days and thoughts during the ordeal. The father and his youngest son come most vividly to the fore. Finn evokes Jesse's terror, depression, hospital boredom, his bread-winner's guilt. Equally strong is Gary's trauma: he's briefly sent off to stay with a childless (and very vulgar) uncle and aunt; later there's a sojourn with his two older brothers in their own house in California (without Mom), during which Gary begins to believe that his brothers are subtly poisoning him. And this first flicker of derangement, which tells volumes about the pressures on the boy, is calmly and finely set up--without melodramatic foreshadowing, breaking upon the reader with powerful sadness. The rest of the characters, unfortunately, aren't nearly so deeply etched. Yet this is a clearly promising debut from a writer drawn to the quiet pressures of normal life and normal misfortune.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0873958616
Publisher: State Univ. of New York Press