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by Judy Troy

Pub Date: June 21st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-50230-0
Publisher: Random House

A terse, resonant exploration of the lingering impact of betrayal and violence. Mike Newlin has just graduated from high school and is restlessly waiting to go off to college when his father, who runs an insurance agency in their small South Dakota farming community, shoots and kills his secretary. It quickly becomes apparent that his father had for some time been having an affair with the much younger woman. Little by little, as a driven, idiosyncratic detective investigates, a new and unsuspected version of Mike’s father comes to light, casting much of what Mike thinks he knows about him—and by implication much of what he thinks he knows about all those around him—into confusion. The plot may seem unsurprising at first, but Troy (West of Venus, 1997, etc.) manages to make it fresh and disturbing, thanks, in part, to her ear for the wry, unadorned speech of the West and to her keen eye for the small, modest gestures that reveal the fears and desires working within a character. Mike’s mother, his girlfriend Donetta, and the close circle of family acquaintances are all gradually revealed to Mike as far more complex than he had realized. Troy also catches with great subtlety the intense struggle that Mike is plunged into by his father’s betrayal. Shock, guilt, anger, confusion, and uncertainty follow one another in quick succession. Despite his grim determination to seal off his pain over his father’s actions (and his longing to believe that somehow his father wasn’t responsible), Mike begins to break down. He’s unable to settle into college life. He’s further unsettled by his mother’s dignity, and by her ability to imagine a life without his father. The sudden appearance of his father, still on the run, and the revelations about his duplicities that follow, finally move Mike, sorrowfully, to act. A spare, haunting story about the conflicting claims of loyalty and truth, by an assured and highly original writer. (Author tour)