IN THE HOLLOW OF HIS HAND by James Purdy

IN THE HOLLOW OF HIS HAND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another posturing Purdy potboiler--this time out, flaky Midwesterners get their noses out of joint when a mysterious Indian claims the only son of a prominent family as his own. It's the sleepy town of Yellow Brook in the 1920's, and spinster schoolmarm Bess Lytle has begun to notice that young Chad Coulter, son of Lewis and Eva Coulter, who have a big old house in a nice section of town, is paying entirely too much attention to Decatur, an Ojibway Indian who has been hanging around the schoolyard. Decatur is a war hero who owns several flashy cars and likes to take Chad for rides in them. Bess informs mother Eva, who seems helpless to do anything about it, and then learns from Decatur himself that he is actually Chad's father, ""'This is a sorry business,' she moaned now. 'l am stricken by it.'"" Indeed. In fact, Chad does look a lot like an Indian (except for having one blue eye, ""the eye which held him to the white race""), and eventually he simply goes off with Decatur, wandering the upper Midwest. After they're separated, Chad is tracked down by Lewis Coulter, who is a con man and drifter and who futilely claims Chad as his real son. For nothing can hold Chad as he goes off on his ""trek"" or ""voyage of discovery."" He eventually ends up in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, looking for a ""chief"" who will tell him The Way; one appears in the form of Chief Silver Fox, who is then murdered by a white posse led by a crazed private detective named Harkey, who had been hired to find Chad. Harkey brings the boy back handcuffed to Yellow Brook, but the mysterious Decatur reappears and Chad simply walks off with him, leaving the family once again in a dither. All in all: this densely symbolic Midwestern gothic, with touches of incest and characters who talk in the fiat, bright, vacant tones of Edward Albee, might be best left to patient fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson