Most helpful critical review
lacking charm and construction
on December 17, 2003
The first chapter of this book has the quiet charm and colorful charactors one would expect, but it quickly devolves into a confused meander through side stories, secondary charactors and long passages (pages and chapters) of people sitting and telling the story to someone else - at a wake, a bar, etc, creating a distance between the reader and a flattening of any plot tension. This is heightened by the undefined narrator/lens figure. Yes, she is the daughter of Billy's good friend, but beyond being there as a witness to the conversations and reminiscences, she plays no narrative role, has no stake in the story, no life outside the story, in short, she is flat. Why McDermott chose this way to construct the story is beyond me - the occaisional interjections of the narrator's first person voice every 30 pages are a disruption that contributes nothing to the story.
The main story, of a man who is told by his best friend his fiancee has died, when she (we learn in first chapter) married someone else, could have been interesting, but it is never developed as other charactors' loves and work tales take over. The whole thing feels like listening to someone else's family stories where you don't really know who is who, and after awhile, don't care.