From the Iowa heartland, Drury (The Black Brook, 1998, etc.) conjures a deceptively simple tale of a family and a weekend, during which the husband steals a gun, the wife runs away, the daughter gains a goat, and also a creepy admirer, the son waits for his mother—and life goes on.
Charles the plumber is a decent guy, maybe a little possessive of his wife, Joan, but on this October weekend he's really starting to come unglued over his late stepfather's shotgun, which the local minister's widow presently owns and won't part with, even though she doesn’t have a history with it, as Charles does. Joan, meanwhile, an exactress now focused on animal rights, flies to the city to give a convention speech to likeminded advocates, glad to escape from the oppressive routine and the latest wrinkle: her daughter, Lyris, now returned to her as a teenager after Joan gave her up as an infant. Lyris, raised in a string of foster homes, draws the weaselly eye of Follard, a young ne'erdowell who once set fire to his parents' house with them still in it. Innocent Micah is just trying to have a normal boyhood. Charles buys his stepdaughter a pet goat, then breaks into the widow's house to claim his gun, thereby getting more than he bargained for. Joan, followed on her trip by the town doctor, starts an affair with him and begins to wonder if she really even wants to go home. Follard takes a tipsy Lyris for a ride and then won't take her home, thus earning a visit from Charles, who trades a knife in the neck for the pleasure of breaking some of the weasel's ribs. Joan calls to say she won’t be back until spring.
The trick and true pleasure here are in the utterly ordinary context these extraordinary events occur in. Drury never misses a beat—the quiet moments dazzle as much the louder ones.