QUASPECK by Eric Gabriel Lehman


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 A Doris Lessing-like chronicle--1970's-set, dense with detail- -about an upstate New York family with wounds too deep to heal without a tragedy. Lehman's second (Waterboys, 1989) captures the intransigence and generational confusion endemic to the 70's. Walter Gajewski--father of three (Carl, Cee, and Jason) and a ``lumbering self-satisfied hulk of a man''--doesn't live out the story here, but his children will manage to cause him and each other a good deal of grief in working out their destinies. The book, often enough literary in its encyclopedic presentation of its milieu, is also a high-toned soap opera. Carl squats with his wife and sick child Melissa, but Walter is hired to help evict him so that developers can build a resort at Quaspeck Lake. Meanwhile, sister Cee, a reader but also a dropout after a ``botched suicide,'' isn't sure at first about her sexual orientation (``There it was again, sex--the subject was never far from the surface''), but she discovers it soon enough with a vengeance: she's straight, and men are a drug. Jason, the third child, also has sexual-identity problems before going into hiding in the New York gay underground. All of this is worked out against a backdrop of Richard Nixon and Vietnam on the tube. Walter is voted Father- of-the-Year--an award that hardly reflects the true family situation--then gets knocked out at a lake demonstration, an event followed by a big finale replete with folksingers and cops. Eventually, the old man dies of pneumonia, while Cee is left to summarize what's left of the family. If this all sounds a bit hurried and cluttered, it is--but, even so, Lehman's confident orchestration of characters and incident finally makes for a literate page-turner that uses family melodrama to good effect.

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 1-56279-036-6
Page count: 352pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993