THE FREE FALL OF WEBSTER CUMMINGS by Tom Bodett

THE FREE FALL OF WEBSTER CUMMINGS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Bodett, of Motel 6 commercial and NPR fame, author of collections of homespun vignettes such as The End of the Road (1989), offers a flawed but often moving first novel. Webster Cummings, a Boston statistician, falls from an airplane over New Hampshire but happens to land in perfect tandem with the angle of a ski slope. He slides into the valley below and uphill again, then is catapulted to his feet like some sort of superhero. This near-death experience causes Webster to reassess his thus far inconsequential life: An adoptee, he becomes obsessed with finding his real mother and father. From this grand and amusing, if unlikely, premise, Bodett begins peeling away layers of mystery, beginning in Alaska with a teenaged couple banned by a cruel old patriarch for sleeping together out of wedlock, then to Ohio, Indiana, Seattle, and the fruit country of north-central Oregon--where most of the story is set. No doubt about it, Bodett loves his small-town folk and does them beautifully: a fragile, naãve Ohio couple who trade in their home for a gas-guzzling RV and go visit the children who don't want to see them; a dreamy, homeless man who wanders the Seattle waterfront, reporting for his various ``jobs''; a heavy equipment operator who loses his arm in an accident, drifts toward alcoholism, and finds redemption in bringing to life a failed peach orchard. Just as often, Bodett is a masterful light satirist: His portrait of a bicoastal yuppie couple having their first baby is a scream. When it comes to plotting, however, Bodett is a third-rate Dickens, relying on contrivance and coincidence to bring his huge cast together. So the only reason to read him is his people, who break your heart. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 4th, 1996
ISBN: 0-7868-6209-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996