JUMP by John Prendergast


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Shallow characters and mediocre angst, in a debut novel that often reads like an outline for a novel. It's President's Weekend 1984, and former college pals Walter, Nancy, Dave, and Patrick are spending it together at a Vermont ski- cabin. It's been years since the group was reunited, and all hope for a time of reconnection. But Walter, our narrator, can't enjoy himself. Though he and Nancy have lived together for five years, their relationship is strangely cool, and now, with the reappearance of Dave, a good-looking womanizer, the two pull even farther apart. Walter suspects that Nancy is in love with Dave, but he can't bring himself to confront her. Instead, he lets Dave's niece make a play for him, then feels guilty...and then spends the rest of the weekend reliving his childhood traumas and those golden days of college, whenever he and the group aren't consuming booze or drugs. A few verbal digs are directed at Patrick's homosexuality, but, generally, everyone's too self-absorbed to notice that other people exist. And herein lies the novel's central failure: Prendergast's characters are simply too self-centered to be compelling. They're big children, living for the moment's gratification, making the reader entirely apathetic as to their fates. Some empathy is created when Walter recalls his mentally unstable and abusive mother, but these episodes aren't enough to carry the story. The numerous attempts to generate sexual tension similarly fail, sex to those here seeming as meaningful as a good toothbrushing. A wealth of detail is present from start to end, but it rarely helps in summoning up a worldmuch like the political references that are found throughout, though failing to make any larger point. A plodding, tedious, lukewarm version of The Big Chill, minus the original's tension and conflict.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-922811-23-7
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1995


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