A superbly convincing first novel about a family man driven, through personal and professional crises, to drift from home.
Robert Elgin believes he is a dead man and needs a new identity. In his late 30s, a labor negotiator for Oakland County, Michigan, with wife Laura and their two small children, he has allowed himself to get involved with the Republican Party, taking kickbacks from the unions in order to help county executive Donald McCabe get well situated to run for governor. At the same time that the politics grow dirtier, the couple’s five-year-old daughter Carrie is sexually abused by a twelve-year-old neighbor, and Robert and Laura begin a grueling, alienating ordeal of court hearings and therapy. The tale moves back in time, starting with Robert’s actual death in New York City months later when he’s struck by a bus while running after a young woman, Carla, whom he’s hired as an escort and fallen desperately in love with. Before that, he will have secured a new Social Security card and driver’s license, using the half-million dollars he emptied from a Barbados bank account once he unlocked the political union scam. The shady organizers behind the money-skimming will certainly be after him, and Robert has fled his home and former life, only to return days before his death to say goodbye forever to Laura, who, in turn, has been advised by her therapists and church advisors to push Robert out of the way in order to save their daughter. Most compelling for readers is Robert’s life on the lam, when he meets the savvy graduate student, Stacey, a.k.a. Carla, who plays dominatrix for her rent money. Robert and Carla are both re-creating themselves, finding new identities, and in dire need of companionship; but their cautious, growing love is a poignantly doomed fantasy in Ligon’s energetically suspenseful amalgamation of the shards of Robert’s ruined life.
An expertly motivated debut that moves briskly and doesn’t lose sight of its affecting purpose.