A VISIT HOME by Will Aitken


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 A careful, well-made chronicle of a man's attempt to dredge up childhood abuse and of his later confrontation with his father. Aitken's second (Terre Haute, 1989)--though sometimes too programmatic--builds to a moving finale that refuses to simplify events. Daniel Kenning, well-married to Leslie, is an award-winning architect. But when the death of an acquaintance oddly touches him, he begins to understand--also thanks to the help of a female therapist--how much of his life has been repressed. Emotionally withdrawn from his own family, and assuming that's the way things must be, Daniel remembers (with therapeutic aid) his own adolescent homosexuality, savage beatings from his father, and, finally, sexual abuse. At times this is all laid out too neatly--Daniel on the couch deftly being led by the miraculous therapist to the secret of the family romance--but Aitken, once he gets all the background into the story, picks up the narrative nicely when Daniel goes home, Ö la Roseanne Barr and many others, to ``break the silence.'' Aitken dazzles the rest of the way, carefully sidestepping easy melodrama. Daniel's father, a retired cosmetic surgeon, and his mother are both unwilling to admit the truth of the past, and Daniel's mother sends her son away after the inevitable confrontation. Back home, Leslie suggests a separation, and Daniel goes to Japan for a bout of landscape architecture, where he has a kind of epiphany and a tender nonsexual night with a young man before returning home when his father is taken ill. By the close, only Daniel's own family life is resolved--he is now able to love his wife and boys without holding back. Occasionally too much is telegraphed too soon, but Aitken's novel, articulate and impressive, handles a controversial issue engagingly while mostly staying away from therapeutic jargon or easy answers.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-74707-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992