Saturday, October 01, 2011
GLASS BOYS by Nicole Lundrigan (2011) Douglas &McIntyre
Douglas & McIntyre, the little west-coast publisher that could, does not shy away from tough topics. Earlier this year they published Margaux Fragoso's harrowing memoir TIGER, TIGER, where she chronicles her relationship with a pedophile and through her exquisite pain gives that life full resonant voice in the telling. Nicole Lundrigan's novel GLASS BOYS is calibrated with similar intensity and rendered tenable through unflinching visceral prose.
All families have secrets, hidden away in dark places. None, however, are perhaps as upsetting as the one coveted by eleven-year-old Garrett Glass. When Garrett's stepfather Eli Fagan discovers the contents of his prized pickle jar, he flies into a blind rage, burning the evidence in a backyard fire-barrel.
At the same time, the Trench brothers, Roy and Lewis stumble drunkenly into Fagan's yard and their misstep ends up costing Roy his life. Faced with his own guilt at not being able to save or protect his brother as you would expect a local cop to do, Lewis stokes a life-long hatred against Fagan, the man he holds responsible for Roy's unexpected death. For a time Lewis hopes for a different, more loving future in a life that he builds with Wilda Burry and their two sons. However, when previous darknesses begin to haunt his family and cleave them apart, Lewis realizes that the past is not past. And, all roads, both literal and symbolic, lead back to Eli Fagan's place.
Nicole Lundrigan's GLASS BOYS is paradoxically dark and illuminating. Her strong prose reminds me of Michael Helm's, especially in CITIES OF REFUGE and IN THE PLACE OF LAST THINGS: the way they both unravel a tale about flawed characters is utterly riveting.