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A witty thoughtful debut about a middle-aged Louisianan’s sexual and psychic confusion as he’s prodded from every side over the three days preceding his 47th birthday. A midlife crisis can be a pretty tedious affair, not least for the hapless bystanders who have to hang around and watch it. Here, narrator Gatlin is an investment counselor, level-headed, not given to cheap sentiment and prodigal displays of self- absorption, and he has seen more than enough idiocy in his friends” lives to teach him the lessons of emotional restraint. Rusty and Cliff, for example, are both making holy fools of themselves over the same woman—unaware that she’s playing them both in a very open field—while another friend, Rich, has gradually morphed into a kind of Southern Mother Teresa, working with the indigent and visiting prisoners at the state penitentiary. On the eve of his 47th birthday, Gatlin can—t really afford to scoff: slowly but surely, he sees that the narrative of his life has already been set and that there is little he can do at this point to alter its direction or shape. But that doesn—t keep him from wanting to try. He and his wife Sarah have had a largely happy life together, but there are a few unhealed wounds even so—especially Sarah’s inability (despite repeated miscarriages) to have a child. When Gatlin finds that he has a business meeting scheduled with Madame X (Rusty and Cliff’s new obsession), his mind turns to more than P/E ratios. Can he get over it? Or are all men, always and everywhere, doomed to humiliate themselves beyond redemption in their middle years? Perhaps this is the only way that they can see their way clear: “We begin by letting go. By accepting what’s happening and going forward.” Though a bit precious and more than slightly self-indulgent, Tarlton’s story is still a compassionate and moving account of men reaching for the final stage of maturity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-882593-30-8
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Bridge Works
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999