THE ONYX by Jacqueline Briskin

THE ONYX

By
Age Range: 1894 - 1947
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The way I look at it, a man's life works in cycles like an engine. The first stroke you're a kid, taking in your air and gas. . . . The second stroke you're. . . compressing your charge. Then you explode and ignite. . . ."" Tom Bridget, a Ford-style automotive tycoon, talks like that a lot in this family-saga fatty (1894-1947)--as industrial lingo steams along with domestic chatter. In 1894 ex-farm-boy Tom, supporting his handsome younger brother Hugh through school by working at Major Stuart's Detroit furniture factory, invents his innovative ""little dragonfly"" of an automobile, progenitor of the world famous ""Onyx."" But, though Major Stuart is keen on Tom's ability, he disapproves when Tom courts his lovely (soon-pregnant) niece Antonia--so mixups and feudings ensue, with Antonia left unwed and Tom's brother Hugh winding up disfigured in a factory fire (Tom blames the Major). Skip to 1900: Tom is married to country girl Maud, who gives birth to Caryll; Antonia has married London lawyer Claude Hutchinson, who is official father-till his early death--to both Justin (sired by Tom in 1894, remember) and his own child Zoe. And by now the Bridger Onyxes, product of the first moving assembly line, are famous world-wide. . . which means that Tom travels to London, where he naturally confronts Antonia and Justin. Tom promises to divorce Maud, to keep Justin's real paternity a secret. But before a happy reconciliation can take place, Antonia is killed in a zeppelin raid, so Hugh (who Knows All, of course) brings orphaned Justin and Zoe to Detroit. And in the FDR era Justin will learn the Truth--which Tom denies--and the unacknowledged rebel-son then becomes Tom's furious enemy, marrying little Elisse Kaplan (an auto-union lawyer) and leading the unionization of Tom's factory: there's a sit-in, a goon-squad riot, the torture/death of Elisse, and confrontations galore between Torn and Justin. Only in 1947, after Caryll's funeral, will broken Tom and sad Justin finally embrace--with a truce that also involves Justin's tough young son Ben. True, none of the characters here has much hopping under the hood. But, though lacking the romantic sweep of Briskin's Paloverde, this is a sturdy old flivver of a big-man/big-family dynasty tale--certainly good for a few drives around the block.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1982
Publisher: Delacorte