An unemployed former art history professor searches for his birth father’s identity in the newest from Glass (The Widower’s Tale, 2010, etc.).
In his mid-40s, Kit Noonan, father of twins, has become an ineffectual househusband with no job prospects, a shrinking bank account and a marriage in deep trouble. But for reasons that never quite become clear, the unsolved question of his paternity takes priority, and prodded by wife, Sandra, a barely sketched character who shares no apparent chemistry with him, Kit sets out on a journey of discovery. Kit’s mother, Daphne, bore him at 18 and, now in her 60s, still refuses to divulge his father’s identity (although readers know early on that adolescent Daphne’s lover was Malachy Burns, the AIDS-infected music critic from Glass’ 2002 National Book Award–winning novel, The Three Junes). Soon, Kit has gone to visit his former stepfather, Daphne’s first husband, Jasper. Jasper is a lovable creation, tough but gentle, worried that he was not much of a father to his own sons, let alone Kit. Daphne broke Jasper’s heart when she left him, but since he promised her he would keep her secrets, he is at first reluctant to share what he knows with Kit. Eventually he does share, and Kit is soon in touch with Lucinda Burns, wife of an aging New Hampshire senator and still-grieving mother of Malachy. A devout Catholic mother of two gay sons, Lucinda went against Malachy’s wishes in pushing Daphne to have Kit and then dedicated her life to encouraging single mothers to have their babies. Now she questions her rigid choices with the help of Malachy’s last friend, Three Junes character Fenno. While all of the characters Kit encounters have idiosyncratic charm, Kit himself is an overly sensitive, navel-gazing bore. Nevertheless, a new extended family develops, though not without trials and tears.
Why Daphne keeps her secret in the 21st century is hard to fathom, and it’s just one of the creaking contrivances that fans of Glass’ empowering tear-jerkers will have to overlook.