Schiavone’s debut literary novel delves into the sad relationships between a single mother and her son and between her and the bottle.
Craig is dead. He was Katie’s husband and father of the surly C.J., but no one seems terribly grieved, since he’d left them for California years ago, taking a dark secret with him. Meanwhile, Katie struggles to raise a teenage son and cobble together a living by tending bar and painting. Unfortunately, Katie has trouble selling her art, perhaps in part because her portraits show people without faces. But she is never far from a stiff drink. One day, Craig’s motorcycle shows up as his parting gift, and C.J. finally sees something to distract him from his anger—if only he were old enough to drive. Katie reeks with self-pity, especially in contrast to her successful sister Caroline, who never fails to point out Katie’s many failings. Their arguments often end with Caroline telling Katie to “call me when you land.” Great-Uncle Walter, terminally ill, abbreviates his suffering by driving the motorcycle into a wall. Too bad, because he was the sane one in the household. Then amid familial chaos, C.J. and the repaired motorcycle disappear. Rather than reporting the incident to the police, Katie simply waits, hoping he’ll write and eventually return. The novel is told in the present tense except for the numerous flashbacks that bring Craig back to life in Katie’s memory. All the characters are deeply flawed and human, but the people readers will likely care about are those who act on their problems. That includes Walter and C.J. Whether it also includes Katie, only patient readers will learn.
Well written and thoughtful, even though it’s hard to root for a character who is her own worst enemy.