The Mississippi author’s second (The Total View of Taftly, 2000) is a complicated, intense coming-of-ager centered on an infatuation seemingly passed from father to son, doing neither of them much good—especially father, who winds up mysteriously dead.
Roy is young when his drunken daddy, Sanders, drifts out of their house on the Florida Panhandle one night and winds up shot to death, but Dad’s patrician memory is kept alive by June, Roy’s mother. The fatal attraction for Sanders was June’s lithe and lovely younger sister April, also their next-door neighbor, for whom he’d carried a flame ever since he first blew into town in 1965, fresh from Vietnam. And after Sanders’s death, when June becomes preoccupied with the political fortunes of a local congressman, Roy goes increasingly to his aunt for company and comfort. From their trailer, April and her hard-drinking husband Leonard raise Roy in the country way his mother so despises: from April he learns to fish; from Leonard, a former star running back, he learns football. Under Leonard’s tutelage, Roy becomes an unstoppable force on the playing field, but as he grows up, his feelings for April become ever more frustrated. June and Leonard, sensing a replay of Sanders’s unhealthy fixation, work to warn Roy off, but not even being thrown through the window of the trailer by Leonard deters him. Finally, when Roy opts to play ball at nearby Florida State instead of a college worthy of Sanders, a vengeful June forces Leonard to check into a rehab program and April to go to a battered women’s home. Roy rescues his aunt and, in New Orleans, drunk and liberated, they resolve the tension between them. They return home, and Roy goes off to college; in time, he learns the full story of Sanders and what happened to him.
Surviving the family whammy, Roy garners sympathy, yet he never quite comes into his own as a character.