A tender teen romance unfolds inside the story of a family’s epic struggles with tragic loss.
Claude is the quintessential “good son”—studious, reliable, committed to eluding trouble in a world overrun with opportunities for it. His brother Troy is good-hearted but bolder and more inclined to flout safety and the law. The family’s dark travails begin with a random accident: While Claude’s father is driving, his car is rear-ended by another driver who is a long-standing nemesis from his own spotted past. A macabre eruption of revenge and violence springs out of an otherwise insignificant happenstance, highlighting the precariousness of human life, a recurring theme throughout the novel. In the midst of this crisis, Claude falls in love with his best friend, Kelly, and they slowly, warily find a love that flourishes even in the ruins of family peace. Right out of the narrative gate, this is a complex and entangled tale; within the first 40 pages, several characters die, two by murder and one as the result of a heart attack. The story rushes by, challenging the reader to absorb rafts of detail and woe. The prose is often heartfelt and even poignant, and the mature love that develops between Claude and Kelly is described poetically. The writing sometimes devolves into mawkish sentimentality, and it works too hard to tug heavy-handedly at whatever heartstrings it can grasp. Still, it’s hard not to be inspired by the arc of Claude’s development from a boy to a man who finds sanctuary from pain in loving surrender.
For fans of tearful, overly complicated tales of courtship.