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An amiably cleareyed and unpretentious family novel by the author of The Divorce Sonnets (1984). Of sternly no-nonsense New England stock (she lives in a wind. swept house on Cape Cod, where she manages a handful of plain-and-simple tourist cabins), Myra Brewster is the aging mother of five grown sons. One of these is Lyle, a big, overweight, and gently simple-minded man who is on tranquilizer therapy to keep his ""little spells"" at bay, and who lives year-round with his mother, working as a handyman to help maintain her cabins, The other four sons come home each summer for the family reunion that has grown into a tradition, bringing with them, summer after summer, new glimpses of the ongoing stories that make up their lives. There's the youngest son, Darwin, whose homosexuality (he lives in NYC and ""paints"") finally proves unshocking to unflappable mother Myra; there's Jerry, who works (somewhat shakily) in TV and who comes to the Cape with wife and assorted children from previous marriages; Charley, an English professor in the Midwest married to much-younger and Catholic-raised wife Misty; and the assertive and successful Jason, a ""tax-lawyer,"" divorced and the father of two boys, What holds this diverse family together--and brings them into their ritualized if sometimes strained reunion year and year--seems to be an ineffable and intangible spirit that somehow survives the small shocks and jolts of their ongoing quarrels and variously deep-rooted conflicts. Jerry will lose his job and very nearly (and secretly) go on the skids; Charley will drink too much (and will find that Misty, claiming a miscarriage, has actually aborted his child); Jason will become engaged to a brittle and affected woman whom (with some moments of high comedy) none of the rest of the family can stand. By end--and with a touch of stagy symmetry--father Brewster, a ne'er-do-well sailor and drunk who abandoned the family years earlier, will come home to die, an act that Myra will accommodate him in with her usual insistence upon an orderly--and efficient--way of doing things. Small tapestries of lives woven into an unassuming whole, with mortality, however light of foot, brooding at the edges.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1987
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press