REBEL POWERS by Richard Bausch


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 Like most of Bausch's work (Violence, 1992, etc.), his sixth novel--about a family's fate when its Air Force father is imprisoned for two years--has its pleasures, but the material is stretched far too thin, and, though moving at times, the whole thing is far too shapeless. Thomas Boudreaux relates this fictional memoir from the vantage point of his 40s; he lives alone in a beach house in Virginia, runs a used-book store, and tells us his sister is a Mormon. The style is leisurely and elegiac (``I was married, but that has been over for some time now...''), with the bulk of the narrative set in 1967, when Thomas's father--a former POW--is caught stealing an electric typewriter and is dishonorably discharged, then thrown into prison in Wyoming. Wife Connie, North Dakotan by birth, decides against the West and moves with son Thomas and daughter Lisa to Virginia. Aunt Elaine from North Dakota visits, but nothing sways Connie until she decides abruptly to move the family to Wyoming to be near the father. On the train, Connie meets Penny Holt, a lost soul who, much later, arrives without warning in Wyoming. Meanwhile, the father, who was beaten in prison, is released and tries to join the family at the boardinghouse where they live with Penny Holt and a couple of odd ducks. On the day that Robert Kennedy is shot, the father beats up Penny and smacks Thomas, releasing the narrative tension and allowing Thomas to sum up: the family, spent of passion, moves to Minot. Thomas joins the Air Force, goes to Vietnam and returns, to describe his father's grave and his mother's small-town life. The story here, about people victimized by circumstances, is finally more evasive than climactic. Bausch's mÇtier, increasingly, seems to be not the long novel but the short story, where he can shape and prune to incisive effect.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-395-59508-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993


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