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by Richard Hall

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-670-83784-9
Publisher: Viking

An intergenerational saga (1930's-60's) about a Jewish family that denies its Jewishness until a homosexual son comes out of both the religious and sexual closet. The Schanberg family, under the aegis of wife Margaret, changes its name to Shay. First-novelist Hall tells his story from four points of view: that of Margaret, who ends an affair only in return for a bigger house; of husband Judd, for whom being a good sport ``is the most important thing in the world''; of daughter Mag, who comes back from summer camp in tears and later gets blackballed by a sorority because of her Jewishness; and of son Harris, who at Harvard ``began to make friends with the sissies,'' hang out at the Public Gardens or ``Fairyland,'' and who eventually decided to change his name back to Schanberg. The novel nicely dramatizes the duplicity of assimilation and the false consciousness that can result, and makes us see the social pressure that leads to such duplicity. Even within the family, Margaret is made to feel by Judd's mother that she ``just isn't good enough for Judd, the Prince of Wales.'' When Judd's mother dies, he follows soon afteran Oedipal heart attack. The story trots through the ensuing years, laboring under an ambition to take us all the way from the Depression to the New Frontier. Margaret, freed from Judd, moves out to a farm, where she gardens and receives visits from her two grown children: Mag finds a fairly conventional life, and Harris has a lover. Finally, Margaret, disturbed throughout the book, is stricken with lung cancer, and the novel ends with a whimper. Engagingly enough written, but with mostly cardboard figures. Hall's overambitious debut works best when he carefully develops a very limited David Leavitt-like instance.