A fragmented novel about family fragmentation.
Bennett has no single focus here but tends to circle back to conflict within the family of Gail Neighbors. She runs a small boardinghouse in Indiana, so small, in fact, that she has only two tenants: Annie, who’s showing signs of senility and dementia, and single-mother Jackie, who’s trying to find a place to raise toddler Cole, though on occasion she still finds herself drawn back in to her previous party-loving lifestyle. Gail has two sons. Tyler, the younger, sings solos at church and generally leads an upright existence, while his older half brother, Mason Reed, is tormented by the abandonment of his father, Pony Reed, years before. At the age of 11 Mason has a brief, abortive encounter with his father, but a few years later he feels drawn in by the force field of his father’s charisma. After his father essentially pimps for Mason in trying to arrange his son’s first sexual encounter, Pony disappears again. Anguished and lost, Mason decides to go in search of him. His companions on this journey are Kenny Gamble, a drug addict and perhaps the least-likely person in the cosmos to be helpful to Mason, and his friend Gina. Meanwhile, back at the boardinghouse, Jackie faces the possibility of being forced to give up her beloved Cole.
Bennett diligently anatomizes both the antagonisms and love relationships of single-family households, pushing well beyond formulas and racial stereotypes.