CALLBACKS by Margaret Wander Bonanno


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A raggedy, splayed-out novel--full of uncoordinated Manhattan traumas and without the hortatory focus of Bonanno's Catholicism/women's-lib fiction (Ember Days, 1980; A Certain Slant of Light, 1979). Alice Antonelli, a social worker and wife of actor Sebastian (known as Tony Sebastian), is worried about drifting daughter Claire--as she also muses on her own unloved, ugly-duckling past and the Vietnam death of her hated fascistic brother Walter. Meanwhile, her other brother Mark is still under the spell of Walter: he's becoming increasingly unstable, has given up job hunting (in spite of his graduate degree), and spends his time either jogging or trying for the world-shaking equation on his calculator. Mark's wife Celia--who's lighting and sound technician for Sebastian's off-Broadway repertory company--has her problem too: paranoid-schizophrenic brother Joey, a victim of their horrid father (who almost raped Celia). But most of Bonanno's attention here goes to Alice's new involvement with young Jimmy, a black teenager who has run away from his foster home and has been hiding out in Alice's garage: Jimmy (an early Sidney Poitier type, virtuous beyond belief) turns out to be the product of a white mother and black father, with a rocky childhood and a disappointing foster-family; and Alice then suddenly becomes certain that Jimmy is the son of her callous erstwhile friend, money-grubbing Suzanne (who said, long ago, that she'd had an abortion after being impregnated by a black lover). Melodramatic moments ensue, most of them implausible, while the other crises are generally put on hold. And the result is an overwrought mishmash, with characters done up in cellophane and dialogue that gargles unpleasantly. An uneven writer's weakest effort.

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 1981
Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Harper & Row