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 A prodigal father returns home to die in this engaging tale of a dysfunctional New York family trying to heal itself--the latest by this writer for The Village Voice and The New Yorker and author of Back East (1983). Brainy, eccentric Meyer Ginzburg may not have been much of a dad, but he sure knew how to procreate. Father to five children with his longtime schoolteacher wife, Ruth (now deceased), child- prodigy-turned-real-estate-agent Meyer abruptly abandoned the family when his oldest was 19 in order to live with a 23-year-old Irish poet who soon killed herself--because she wanted to die happy. Cast adrift, Meyer wandered Europe, moved into a West Coast commune, became a Zen Buddhist, sold zippers, joined a Peruvian independence movement, fathered another son and then abandoned him too--according to the rumors and the very occasional phone calls that reached the increasingly bitter Ginzburg children. Then the wandering, unrepentant Meyer learns that he has acute myeloblastic leukemia and returns to the family's Catskills vacation home, now occupied full-time by his eldest, to await imminent death. The five grown children reluctantly gather to see him off, bringing along a variety of spouses, lovers, and troubles all their own. A week of personality clashes, confused memories, long-nursed grudges, and lame flirtations fill the hours downstairs while Meyer, upstairs, ponders the infinite until, Big Chill-like, decades-old insecurities are put to rest and the younger Ginzburgs can go on with their lives. Pall's talent lies in her crisp, clever dialogue and her eye for the telling New York detail. An entertaining group character study, then, and a promising advance on Back East.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-944072-61-5
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996


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