OUR FATHERS' SHADOWS by Jack Fuller

OUR FATHERS' SHADOWS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fuller, author of both thrillers and more ambitious fiction (Convergence, Mass, Fragments), seems to be fully in the grip of a creative identity-crisis here--with a serious (if sketchy and crude) family-novel that's arbitrarily yoked to a thin police-procedural/murder-mystery. Frank Nolan, 29, a state's attorney in Chicago circa 1970, is in the throes of trauma and depression brought on by the impending death of his 48-year-old father, a skeptical, self-educated PR-writer--long ago abandoned by Frank's romantic mother, now succumbing to a rare progressive disease that may be hereditary. Frank keeps this hereditary-illness possibility a secret from unhappy wife Laura, a concert pianist who longs to have a baby. Meanwhile, Frank's younger sister Ruth dictates whole chapters of family-history and reminiscences into a tape-recorder--""a kind of therapy,"" we're told, but really just an awkward device for exposition of family issues that remain, in this second-hand form, uninvolving. Meanwhile, too, Frank's younger, wilder brother Jake comes home on compassionate leave from Vietnam--where he has fallen in love with barren, venerally-diseased beauty Luong (a rape victim), purposely contracting V.D. from her. And there are some familiar domestic confrontations before Nolan Sr.'s posthumous testament--a philosophical retreat from cynicism to a more affirmative credo (""Just because you don't believe in saints and bleeding hearts doesn't mean you don't believe in anything"")--ushers in upbeat endings all around. Fuller has problems in filling out this rather overwrought scenario, which too often lapses into soap-opera, melodrama, or wan pretentiousness. Worse yet, Frank also sporadically plays sleuth, investigating the brutal kidnap/murder of a ten-year-old girl from a posh family: all the evidence points to an ex-con/addict, but Frank comes up with a dubious psycho-solution (á la Jonathan Kellerman) instead. And, notwithstanding a halfhearted attempt at thematic interplay (""the Tatum case had become linked in some deep way with his father's death""), the mystery remains extraneous, seemingly included for commercial reasons only. (The publisher's blurb omits mention of everything but the mystery.) Despite some intriguing family material and continuing signs of talent, then, this is a shallow, disjointed hybrid--without the genuine thriller/psychology blend featured in such recent novels as Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1987
Publisher: Morrow