BACK IN THE BLUE HOUSE by Jeff Giles

BACK IN THE BLUE HOUSE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Another memoir (this one called ``autobiography-as-novel'') about a dysfunctional family, but instead of inspiration and pop psychology, Giles serves up suburban nightmare as nostalgic sitcom. Giles, who writes the ``Night Life'' column for The New Yorker and contributes to Rolling Stone, grew up on Boston's South Shore; his attempts to pretend his family was normal were thwarted by his foulmouthed mother addicted to peppermint patties, his hard- drinking pilot father addicted to stewardesses, and his wild older sister, who became a hands-on participant in scenes of family violence. Giles closely observes the family breakdown, how his father wins his mother back following their divorce and her remarriage, then the stormy years of their unmarried cohabitation and eventual dissolution of the household. He also takes a look at the snags in family history: alcoholism on his mother's side and bitter estrangement on his father's. The lively and polished narrative incorporates lots of suburban atmosphere and references to '70's and '80's pop culture, gives each parent a chance to give his/her side of the story, offers dozens of funny, poignant scenes- -but, ultimately, the author's understanding of his family and his own pain seem to boil down to his being a Type B personality in a home where mother, father, and sister were Type A. Little depth or insight, but an entertaining read; survivors of troubled families who need a break from, or supplement to, 12- step programs may appreciate the author's alternate route: laughing at the past.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1992
ISBN: 0-395-60843-0
Page count: 196pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1991