A young woman tries to reconcile her memories of her father’s murder with the recollections of others.
Howard—dance critic and book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle—was ten in 1986, when her father was stabbed to death. Seventeen years later, she began her quest to make sense of things, sort out what happened and put to rest her suspicions and fears. Her depiction of life with her mother, her addicted and abusive stepfather, Howdy, and her half-brother Emmet is vivid, as are those early years spent with her father and beloved and loving first stepmother, Nanette. When her cocaine-sniffing father moves on to his next wife, the sexy young Sherrie, visiting arrangements are such that she spends considerable time with them and with her new young stepbrother Bobby. She adores her father but fears and dislikes Sherrie and must get along with Bobby. Blue-collar life in California’s Central Valley is rich in detail: shabby tract homes, trucks, fights, language, clothes, pop music—all ring true, whether actually from memory or reconstructions. Indeed, the question of memory and its reliability is one Howard has to face in her search. Accounts of her father’s murder differ: her own memories of the night of the murder, on the one hand, differ from what she learns from the police, which differ from the recollections of her stepmother and stepbrother. She seeks out and interviews family members she hasn’t been in touch with for years, questions detectives who worked on the case and tracks down old newspaper articles. Yet this is not a detective story, and Howard doesn’t solve the crime. Although she hates the overused word “closure,” that’s what in fact she is searching for, and it’s what she finds. By the end, her adoration of her father and her hatred and suspicion of her stepmother have been tempered, and her need to find someone to blame, vanquished.
A slight work with memorable portraits of a fragmented family.