FLESH WOUNDS by Mick Cochrane


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 In Cochrane's closely observed and confident first novel, three generations of a Minneapolis family struggle to regain equilibrium after the clan's patriarch is arrested for sexually abusing his granddaughter. Hal Lamm, a 60ish grandfather and salesman, is arrested for having molested 13-year-old Becky. The charges are corroborated by Hal's grown daughter Ellie, who tells the police about her own history of abuse by Hal; meanwhile, Maureen, another daughter, keeps quiet. Hal hires a good lawyer and gets off with probation, but the family can no longer sustain its denial. Becky stops eating meat and dutifully attends sessions with a psychologist, while her parents impose a big birthday party on her complete with kids she doesn't know and inappropriately lavish presents. At the same time, Ellie has a hard time sharing her agitation with her lumbering but sensitive husband: The incident has awakened both good and bad childhood memories, reigniting her rage at her father and also at her mother, Phyllis, who never believed her daughter's complaints. Now, Phyllis sleepwalks her way to Partners of Offenders meetings and contends with unfamiliar stomach pains until she numbly manages to file for a divorce. Calvin, the youngest Lamm son, is furiously determined to keep his own daughter, Grace, away from his dad. And so on: The siblings, their spouses, and children come together to help Phyllis sell the family house, in the process fumbling toward new trust. They'll all be tested once again when it's discovered that Phyllis is suffering from cancer. The recovery-from-child-abuse drama is less noteworthy here than the subtle, moving portrait of family secrets, hidden angers, and tentative forgiveness. Cochrane achieves cool control with carefully constructed scenes that yield small, psychologically resonant moments, lending weight and unpredictability to material that's potentially hackneyed.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-48661-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1997