As in The Edge of Things (1999), the intensely subjective Lyons goes on writing—at the edge of things.
Previously, Lyons wrote a police procedural that did none of the things a police novel normally does, offering instead five tons of interior monologue from the foggy mind of a serial killer who has killed 64 women. This time out, he stays well within the mental fences laid out by Faulkner, Woolf, and O’Neill (Lyons is an O’Neill look-alike), again sacrificing outer experience for inner, as in Woolf’s subliminal To the Lighthouse. This short narrative might be closest to O’Neill’s Freudian take on Oedipus, Desire Under the Elms, were that play to have no dialogue but only three hours of grimaces and gestures. This relentless delving into the invisible begs for a reader’s deepest allegiance, since little happens, and when the climax does come little still has happened, in a sense, although the most interesting character has fulfilled his quest and found it wanting. Henry Starr, at 16, is upbraided by his father for hugging his young mother far too often and deeply, hip to hip. At last Henry makes love to his mother, or so it looks, then finds she’s not his mother but only his stepmother! As if struck by the Furies, he scalds her with words and leaves home to seek his real mother, about whom he knows almost nothing. His search deepens to monomania as he forgoes love, marriage, children, and home to rip up the land for long years looking for mother. If he finds her, will he find that he’s been looking blindly for his beloved stepmother whom he grew up so deeply attracted to and had first sex with? A subplot focusing on his close cousin Annie tells what might be seen as Electra’s story.
Demandingly original but heavy going.