GOODNESS by Tim Parks


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 This dependably lively British author (Tongues of Flame, 1986, etc.) scores again with his story of a devil-take-the-hindmost yuppie challenged by the birth of a deformed baby. When George Crawley was very young, his missionary father died an unnecessary martyr's death in Africa and endangered the entire family. Back in England, watching his selfless mother, another indefatigable Christian, slaving for his unappreciative grandfather and retarded Aunt Mavis in their shabby home, George derides ``the saving...of souls.'' If his mother wants to live on ``the planet Goodness,'' fine; George will look out for George. He quickly escapes his embarrassing family, marries money (happily, he's also in love with the charming Shirley), and lands an excellent job designing computer software. Life is a childless, double-income paradise until Shirley does a U-turn and decides she wants a kid; after stormy arguments, she gets her way. Hilary is born with a rare condition akin to Down's syndrome. How could this be? Then it dawns on George: Aunt Mavis! Bad genes! Why was he never warned not to have children? After venting his fury on his grandfather, he casts around for a solution; but an operation leaves Hilary worse off, and the faith-healer cannot work a miracle. George is no monster; his love for his baby girl equals Shirley's, but his nature craves action--which means (ultimately) euthanasia, which means a cleansing fire: he will sacrifice their beautiful house for a new, childless life. Parks provides a stunning climax in which George, against the odds, saves his own soul. The brisk, slangy style here is an effective antidote to the downbeat material; this is not a gloomy book. Even more skillful is Parks's characterization of George: we watch this guy raining blows on a helpless old man and yet retain some sympathy for him. Nice work.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-8021-1390-7
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991


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