The protean talent Newton displayed in his first novel (Getting Right With God, 1994) begins to unfold in this much more finely tuned, although still sometimes rambling, second effort. Newton is off and running from the first page as the narrator, Randall, recalls a day during his 12th year when he shot his father. In confessional tones, the now adult Randall admits to being ``a little embarrassed about splattering blood all over the first page.'' This narrator's a manipulative creep--but also the most charming passive-aggressive anyone could ever hope to meet. Randall's now an up-and-coming artist, popular, his mother laments, for ``smearing blood on canvas'' (although it's unclear if that's literally or figuratively). During a strained lunch with a family unable to forgive his crime, he admits to himself that for all his assuredness of the rightness of his actions, ``little boys who shoot their daddy'' pay for it in one way or another. And so he tells us the story of his Long Island family: the father, a well-liked psychiatrist and Episcopalian deacon; his mother, a hard-nosed school principal; one sister, Sonny, who let her parents down by marrying a jerk instead of going to medical school; another sister, Yolanda, who gets stoned and shoplifts; and, of course, Randall, who never fit in and has stopped trying. Then Randall's father, whose sanity has always been an issue (``we ain't sure whether he's the smartest guy alive or completely off his rocker''), has a stroke and holes himself up in his library with pills and alcohol. The old man's ponderings become a little tedious as he draws parallels between himself and Jesus (he tells Randall that ``just as Jesus Christ's death offers salvation, my death will offer you an evolution'') and slowly convinces his son to murder him. Newton pushes the dysfunctional family theme to its limits. Mesmerizing, manipulative, and sickening in the best of ways.