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In a rich regional diction, and with flights of satiric darts aimed at hometown politicking, a completely engaging story about the family ties that bind--tight--and the ego-pricking legacy of growing up poor. Owen (Littlejohn, 1992; Fat Lightning, 1994) tells of middle-aged North Carolina twins--one running for governor--who are trying to work out the persistent influence of a father's obsession. Tommy Sweatt grew up in river-rat country, hardscrabble mean, then married well-off Genie, who stood by him even when, after the birth of twin boys (christened Jack Dempsey and Tom Edison Sweatt), her mother tried to buy her son-in-law into a divorce. It was then that Tommy made a vow: He would raise Jack and Tom Ed to be the best, ""to make everyone wish they were Sweatts."" So he drilled the two hard, and they--close, united, hounded by their father--excelled. But at eight, Jack, nicknamed ""Lucky,"" contracted polio, and Tommy withdrew his love to concentrate on Tom Ed. Lucky then became just another debility that Tom Ed had to overcome--like being poor or hitting a curve. The isolated Lucky achieved and then floundered, erupted in hatred of Tom Ed and the town--until his happy marriage, family and new life in Virginia. Now, though, he is summoned by Tommy to drive Tom Ed in his campaign: to towns, ""pig pickin's,"" tobacco farms, colleges. The public likes Tom Ed--and, an artist at political oratory, he keeps his private self hidden: except in an unwise love affair, or in tipping his hand to Lucky. The men touch their old intimacy, and in a close race it looks like Tom Ed is edging ahead. But no one can foresee the tragicomic end to a lifelong dream. With poignancy, loamy humor, and home truths about the kind of politics where ""People don't want Integrity and Commitment. People want the room to light up.

Pub Date: March 13th, 1996
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: HarperCollins