A molestation incident in the day-care facility of a small town sends the community spinning out of control in Akst's complex, thought-provoking follow-up to his raucous, over-the-top debut, St. Burl's Obituary. Akst narrates the story through Terry Mathers, a major daily reporter turned editor of the weekly Webster Chronicle. Mathers becomes intrigued when an attractive expert on child abuse named Diana Shirley shows up at a town meeting, and her arrival quickly becomes significant when she unearths some questionable practices at the local day-care center. Mathers writes an editorial supporting her investigation, but their quest turns problematic when they fall into an affair while Mathers's wife also has an affair, with one of the paper's most prominent advertisers. The situation gets even more incestuous when Mathers's father, a prominent journalist and national pundit, runs with the story as the allegations spread to include a possible Satanic cult. Akst underplays the sensationalism of the case as it comes to trial, choosing instead to focus on the intricate ties of smalltown life; Webster comes apart, and Mathers begins to question his original editorial as the accusations spiral into a literal and figurative witchhunt. This book lacks the humor of Akst's masterful debut novel, and the absence of a child as a principal character is especially noticeable given the plot. But this book has its own special set of strengths, the most prominent being Akst's ability to take on a hot-button topic and create a memorable protagonist whose emotional decisions reveal him to be wise, flawed and all too deeply human.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Akst's second novel promises to garner the same respect as his first, St. Burl's Obituary (LJ 2/1/96). Fans of Richard Russo will be drawn to protagonist Terry Mathers as he struggles with the declining financial stability of the small-town newspaper he co-owns and edits, his failing marriage, and his long-suffering relationship with his successful television journalist father. While he fights his own demons, he must objectively cover crucial matters in the village of Webster including the threatened takeover of a local department store by a big chain and allegations of sexual abuse and Satanism at the local preschool (a plot line inspired by the famous McMartin case in California in the 1980s). Akst, a columnist for the Sunday New York Times, uses bold and descriptive language to tell a story that takes unexpected twists and turns. Even in small towns, people are perhaps not what they seem. Recommended for public libraries. Karen Traynor, Sullivan Free Lib., Chittenango, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Worst book I've read all year (this is being written in late November) and strong contender for worst book of the decade. Flat, leaden, dull prose. Read morePublished on Nov. 25 2001 by D. C. Carrad
A thought-provoking tale of America in the 80's. This a rich multi layered tale that careens from child abuse, witchcraft, sexual yearning and the deceptive complexities of life in... Read morePublished on Oct. 17 2001 by K. A. Locker