MY FATHER'S GEISHA by James Gordon Bennett


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Scenes from the family life of an Army brat, from sixth grade through college and beyond; a short, episodic first novel that seems trapped in its autobiographical origins. Teddy gives us his family in short takes, as they criss-cross America in the 50's and 60's. There is his good-looking officer father, a master parachutist who serves in Korea and Vietnam but is so tight-lipped he wild not even tell war stories; his ""philandering"" comes close to destroying his marriage and drives Mom to drink and depression. Then there is Teddy's big sister, Cora--bright, high-strong, and mad about the movies. Because the novel proceeds mainly through dialogue, the sharp-tongued Cora predominates, but her endless put-downs of Teddy soon become wearying. This is a family so uptight, so fearful of communication, as to be dysfunctional; even when Mom becomes seriously ill, the topic of her illness must be avoided. Unsurprisingly, Teddy's prayer (""All I want is for the war to be over between my father and my mother"") goes unanswered. The early episodes, such as a Fatal accident during a parachute jump witnessed by the kids, are the strongest, shadowed by adolescent hurt; later events (Cora's unhappy marriage to a crazy Rumanian doctor, their father's second marriage to a young Vietnamese woman) are merely outlined, as is Teddy's own story; no coming-of-age drama, but a dimly perceived drift into a shaky relationship and a dead-end municipal government job. Little more than a parade of bruised egos, mother and kids; the father remains a mostly absent enigma.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1990
Publisher: Delacorte