In a first novel suffused with grief and longing, childhood soul mates reconnect in the aftermath of a death.
April, the daughter of a barkeep, never went to college. Now in her early 20s, she still works at bars in the Long Island community where she grew up (although the author assures readers that she secretly devours intellectually hefty books). When her beloved younger brother dies in an accident while driving her car, she is devastated by the double whammy of grief and self-recrimination. Attending the funeral is her childhood companion Oliver. April has always been a blue-collar damaged soul; Oliver, a former musical prodigy who turned down Juilliard for Stanford, is all bourgeois sensitivity. Although they eventually learned their fathers were stepbrothers, not blood relations, April and Oliver have always thought of each other as first cousins and repressed their mutual attraction. Instead, she has had a string of inappropriate lovers, most recently T.J., against whom she’s brought then revoked a restraining order. Meanwhile Oliver, now a law student at Columbia, has returned home with a fiancée, Bernadette, a perfectly nice woman who quickly recognizes the dangerous chemistry between April and Oliver. April grieves, cares for her grandmother and dallies with the scary but intriguing T.J. while Oliver tries to keep away from her but can’t. When April is mugged, T.J. kills the assailant and then drowns himself. Increasingly threatened by April’s hold on Oliver, Bernadette lays down an ultimatum, and Oliver promises not to talk to April privately again. But on their wedding day, Bernadette sees Oliver’s attention stray toward April and finally calls it quits. Oliver heads to Ireland to clear his head, and April starts college, their bond silently intact.
A portentous surfeit of sensitivity and smoldering overwhelms Callahan’s genuine gifts of language and storytelling.