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A SEAHORSE YEAR by Stacey D’Erasmo

A SEAHORSE YEAR

By Stacey D’Erasmo

Pub Date: July 7th, 2004
ISBN: 0-618-43923-4
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

A typically atypical San Francisco family (two gay mothers and a gay father) restructure their lives after their son is diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Sixteen-year-old Chris’s condition has just emerged. He’s missing, and his biological mother Nan and father Hal are beside themselves. Behind her matter-of-fact exterior, Nan is a fragile soul whose unhappy, abused childhood has led her to a passionate need for family and home. Although Hal was literally a sperm donor—he and Nan never actually had sex together—he has been an intensely involved father. Rounding out the picture is Marina, the artist who lives with and deeply loves Nan but is currently having an affair with an art student. After the first harrowing scenes of his disappearance, Chris is found and diagnosed, but the emotional roller coaster ride has just begun. Hal, once a dancer in a group resembling the Coquettes of the ’60s but now a CPA, pays for an expensive clinic that places Chris on a semi-experimental drug protocol that calms him. When he comes home, fat and docile, he resumes his relationship with his girlfriend Tamara, and the adults want to believe he’s better. But after a nearly fatal disaster at the beach, he enters another facility, though Tamara, in a misguided act of obsessive adolescent love, helps him escape. Chris isn’t able to cope, and another near disaster occurs before the teenagers are found. Meanwhile, Nan and Marina’s relationship crumbles while Hal finds love with a corporate mediator (who happens to be black). Chris goes on to a group home, a job, a life, imperfect but his own. Second-novelist D’Erasmo (Tea, 2000) creates a fully realized world of politically correct yet complex characters and situations, but a tone of self-important seriousness that goes beyond the demands of the admittedly serious situation may well get on readers’ nerves.

Iris Murdoch–lite but without Murdoch’s light touch.