A host of quirky, cranky characters confront their own mortality—and a lot of other stuff—in this chaotic second from Goodwin (Sleeping with Random Beasts, 1998).
Judith Ealey nearly scratches out the eye and breaks the knee of a man she thought was trying to mug her on a Tucson jogging trail. As he writhes in agony, she realizes her mistake—and takes him to the hospital, then to her place to recuperate. Dubbed “Scratch,” her accidental victim is nonplussed by her generosity but amenable to staying on her couch, since his life has crashed and burned for the umpteenth time anyway. At 51, Scratch knows that his life should have evolved beyond addictions, lousy relationships, resenting his parents, fantasizing too much, and compulsive masturbation, but he’s unable to change. Meanwhile, away in Boston, Judith’s intellectual, artistic brother David is flirting with a lonely lesbian, musing all the while on his failed affair with lover Louise, who really doesn’t seem to need him any more than anyone else does. Should he hire a private detective to find his long-lost sister, or let sleeping dogs lie? Enter Morris Ealey, grandfather of these two, who drives around the country talking to his dead wife because he just doesn’t want to give up and go to Florida to die. Then there’s Robert Ealey, their father, putting his two cents in. Somehow they all end up in Arizona, where they agonize about life for a while longer. Judith’s handsome homosexual friend Chris makes a pass at Scratch, who demurs. David’s new lover isn’t happy in the Southwest (too little water, too few lesbians). And Grandpa Morris reveals a Big Secret.
So there’s nothing left for any of them to do but wander in the wilderness, as God apparently has no particular plans for this confused clan—and neither, it seems, does the author.