Kirkus Star


Email this review


Mom was a world all her own, filled with secret thoughts and motions nobody else could see."" So begins the shimmering imaginary journey of eight-year-old Phillip, the brilliant, mad little King Oedipus of Bradfield's extraordinary first novel--which tracks the restless progress of Phillip and his beautiful mother across California, toward father and the hard compromise of growing up. Phillip loves his mother and the endless, solitary movement of their life on the road, living off the credit cards of anonymous men. He knows she lives in her own world, but it is a beautiful place with a wild logic of its own. ""The history of motion is that luminous progress men and women make in the world alone,"" says his mom, as she drives Phillip to yet another motel, and it makes perfect sense to Phillip. He thinks his mother is life itself, as essential and elemental as light and movement. Once, when she stops their endless highway and motel life to settle down with a stolid hardware-store owner nicknamed Pedro, his mother seems to still and draw into herself. So little Phillip douses Pedro's beer with Seconal and performs an unspeakable operation with Pedro's tools (we never learn just what). Then Phillip has his mother back on the move for a time, but one day she decides to rent a house. Once they're settled, she draws deep inside herself again, lost in an alcoholic dream world behind her locked bedroom door. For a time, Phillip becomes the man of the house, making a handsome living by burglarizing houses with a nihilistic little friend named Rodney. Unfortunately, though, Phillip's father shows up to spoil everything. With the help of Rodney (who studies Satanism), Phillip breaks out a tool kit to dispose of the father. Alas, he is betrayed by a little girl (a Marxist feminist, naturally). Bradfield doesn't just write. He introduces us to a new voice and a wondrous, gruesomely funny new world--""and it is a country much like California."" Full of the gaps and excesses typical of first novels, the book still manages to convey something almost ineffable: the sweet, lonely, racing mystery of the blood and the bonds between us.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Knopf