Dufresne (Johnny Too Bad, 2005, etc.) travels to Requiem, Mass.
The characters here are way beyond quirk—on a good day they might aspire to be wildly eccentric. The novel introduces us to a dysfunctional family (a redundant phrase in modern culture?) at whose center is “Mom,” a woman who “[rolls] up her bologna into a tube and [eats] it like a cannoli, the ketchup dripping down her chin…” Her erratic gastronomic behavior is a symptom of her growing paranoia, which eventually becomes so bad she even denies the possibility that her children, Audrey and Johnny (the latter is the novel’s narrator), can actually be hers (“ ‘If they were my kids, I’d love them, wouldn’t I?’ ”). Her increasingly bizarre deportment includes extinguishing her cigarettes in her mashed potatoes and looking around at her family and asking, “ ‘Who are you people?’ ” Incredibly, the tone of all this is rather lighthearted, even frivolous at times. Rainy, Audrey and Johnny’s father is a long-haul truck driver who cheerfully wills himself to stay away from home for weeks at a time—we soon find out that he has several other families cached away in various parts of the country. After being sent to a halfway house, Mom establishes a simulacrum of a “normal” life, at least insofar as she can with a bigamous husband and a couple of whacko children.
Dufresne fills this novel with plenty of postmodern references; the writing itself is as much a subject as the oddball family.