From a fierce new voice in American literature, a psychological drama that combines gripping suspense and unforgettable characters in a story of murder, love, violent passion, and moral responsibility Seventy years old, ill, and bent by the ravages of time and loss of self-respect, Old Jerry wants to die. Charlie Simpkins, Old Jerry's grandson, is a petty crook with a taste for trouble, alcohol, and the wrong sort of women; his older brother, P.T., is sweetly naive and very troubled and could just possibly be convinced that such a death would be a kindness. But when Old Jerry fails to show up for his birthday party and later turns up dead, Charlie wants to deflect attention from P.T. He takes the rap, leaving P.T. and a group of close friends behind, and serves in Vietnam to avoid prison time. Several years later, Charlie returns, angry and dangerous with a new wife and lingering nightmares from the war. He finds that his brother is living happily in a half-way house, his ex-girlfriend is gone, and another friend is married.
But family harmony eludes Charlie-he is torn between living straight with his new wife and returning to the familiar comfort and excitement of his criminal friends. When another murder occurs, the suspicion falls heavily on Charlie, though this is one crime he had nothing to do with. With a persistent homicide detective on his back, he tries to frame one of his friends for the murder when he learns that, yet again, all evidence points to P.T.A small and isolated world-a world where laws and taboos are broken on a daily basis, and family loyalty replaces moral accountability. Lisa Reardon's new novel is a deeply involving and satisfying story that illustrates just how far fear can drive us, and where love can sometime send us.
Barflies in a blue-collar town share tangled destinies in Reardon's third (Blameless, 2000, etc.). "Old Jerry" isn't as old as he looks, but, as the song goes, gin and rum and destiny play funny tricks. On the eve of his alleged 70th birthday party, Jerry lets all the regulars at McGurk's Tap Room, in Ypsilanti, Michigan (the grim outer darkness of Ann Arbor), know he's in the market for assisted suicide. Those regulars, introduced pell-mell in the confusing opening chapters, include his grandsons, Gabriel (a.k.a. P.T.) and Charlie, whom Jerry has cared for since bar owner Gil ran their abusive father out of town. P.T., brain-damaged from taking paternal punches for his younger brother, is only too happy to oblige Jerry, smothering him with a pillow. Charlie, a B&E man, and his friend Gino dispose of the body, and Charlie takes the rap for P.T., enlisting for a stint in Vietnam to avoid prison. On his return, Charlie weds pen pal Diane and is the first of his low-life crowd to marry up. But McGurk's lures him back, into an ever more noxious atmosphere. Gil's new wife is a hooker who takes their child and returns to her batterer boyfriend. P.T. descends into madness as he recalls his role in his mother's death. Charlie's ex-girlfriend Sheila resurfaces with his unwanted daughter. Vietnam has also scarred Gino, who is tormented by horrors he photographed but can't describe. Soon, Charlie must cover for another murder. Minor players such as Detective Tavera, Gil's daughter Katherine, and Bobby, the omnibus fixer of Ypsi, are vividly drawn. The dialogue-although Leonardesque-rings true. Although the happy domestic arrangements at end suggest that Jane Austen may have been called in for a rewrite, we sense that the characters' revision of history will endure only until their kids are old enough to claim stools at McGurk's. Reardon's hard-core survivors snatch vitality from the jaws of cliche. (Kirkus Reviews)
Number Of Pages: 264
Published: 25th August 2004
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 21.0 x 14.0
Weight (kg): 0.41
Edition Number: 1