FINAL THINGS by Richard B. Wright
Kirkus Star


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Wright (The Weekend Man, In the Middle of a Life) has written here a short, horrible book almost entirely unlike his others--about the revenge quest of a man, Charlie Farris, whose twelve-year-old son is sodomized and killed by unsavory acquaintances of the boy. And, though oddly interrupted by Wright's more typical scenes of sweet affection, the novel is chiefly the simple, headlong, almost atavistic trajectory that governs Charlie's actions after son Jonathan is discovered by the police wrapped in two plastic bags. First, and throughout, there is guilt: a divorced father, a writer and a bit of a boozer, living in a so-so Toronto neighborhood, Farris is poleaxed by the fact that this should have happened while his son was spending the weekend with him. Second, there is knowledge: through a terrified homosexual informant, Farris learns (""He believed now that he was about to hear something enormously vile"") that his boy sold marijuana and dirty pictures at boarding school, items he obtained from the lowlifes who would eventually kill him. And, third, there is an at first stumbling, numb, then focusing rage: whatever Farris does in the days after the death, even the most unlikely unpleasantnesses (sleeping drunkenly, for instance, with a 60-year-old neighbor woman, to both their great shames later), is done under a kind of emotional anesthesia that only lifts at the book's final pages--with a bloody catharsis of a conclusion. Wright, whose previous novels delineated sweet-sour characters almost identical to Farris, writes within the same perimeters here--and that's the only problem with the book. There's a certain stubborn amiability to Farris that often makes it seem as if Wright would rather be writing a gentle character novel instead--and the bitter ugliness (especially the gory end) doesn't really build properly on Farris' personality: nothing genuinely prepares you for the grand guignol, which comes when the book still seems to be in motion, lightly rocking. Still, despite this sense of a writer's natural style somehow at odds with his melodramatic material, the novel is shocking, very stark indeed--and Wright's great talent remains fascinating, tangible, always enormously promising.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1980
Publisher: Dutton