THE PUMPKIN SHELL by James Forman

THE PUMPKIN SHELL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the background, dominating 18-year-old Robin's behavior and consciousness, is a boating accident that killed his mother two years earlier. Robin, who has grown physically flabby and generally unmotivated since the accident, blames himself for sleeping through the event--and it turns out that both his father, now remarried, and his older brother Pete, now a virtual alcoholic, each blames himself--but it is only in bits and snatches, recalled by Robin during a wild storm at the family's Long Island shore home, that the circumstances of the event are revealed. In the foreground, in the storm-battered present of the novel, is Robin's relationship to his haughty, tempestuous stepsister Liz, whose father was killed in the same accident before their surviving parents got together. Now Liz and Robin are alone overnight and the distant, disdainful Liz declares a truce, cooks up a gourmet dinner, and serves it with champagne and candles when the power goes off. Their habitual sparring becomes friendlier, then sensual; and later, in his room, she initiates him into the joys of what he can only look upon as love--though she takes it less seriously. Whatever will come of the pair, her goading and an early morning phone call from his father, urging Robin to forget his guilt and live his life, move Robin to open that old SAT study book. This pat upbeat isn't worthy of the novel. The structure is melodramatic and, with all that shifting between memory and desire, the story is late in acquiring momentum; but it has some emotional dimension and a number of strong, taut scenes.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux