- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (March 1 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 080506608X
- ISBN-13: 978-0805066081
- Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.1 x 24.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 612 g
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
Singing Boy: A Novel Hardcover – Mar 1 2001
|New from||Used from|
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
On a March night in a quiet Boston neighborhood, Malcolm Vaughn, who is on his way home from a Historical Society dinner, is gunned down by a stranger while his wife and son watch. So begins Dennis McFarland's deeply interesting examination of grief. Demonstrating an uncanny ability to penetrate two very different psyches, the author focuses on the dead man's widow, Sarah Vaughn, and his best friend, Deckard Jones. The latter is a Vietnam veteran and former addict who's in the midst of his own unraveling as the novel begins. This blue-collar black man may seem like an unusual friend for the white, comfortably middle-class Vaughn family, yet McFarland's writing makes the relationship perfectly plausible.
It's a well-known phenomenon that a common loss doesn't necessarily bring people together. Employing a Rashomon-like alternation of voices, McFarland explores the same events from both Deckard's and Sarah's point of view. These two devastated people have nothing but good will toward each other, and both are worried about 8-year-old Harry and perplexed by his withdrawal and regression. Somehow, though, they can't avoid giving--and taking--offense.
An intensely subjective and surreal tone illuminates the interior lives of both of these characters. Sarah guiltily takes sleeping pills and muscle relaxants that make her "too groggy to drive the car and a little apprehensive in the kitchen, among sharp knives and open flames." Deckard, meanwhile, is having trouble with "a struggle for proper nouns, a tendency to leave his apartment without the keys, the habit of arriving in a room clueless about what brought him there." He's also haunted by his memories of Vietnam, a part of the novel that takes on a life of its own and leaves the reader wanting more. Indeed, there's an immediacy and an edgy humor to this side of the story that's missing from Sarah's more pastel journey. But Singing Boy is everywhere a work of unclichéd compassion, with the sometimes surprising revelation of goodness discovered in unexpected places. --Victoria Jenkins
From Library Journal
McFarland, whose first novel, The Music Room, was a major best seller, again shows his remarkable skill in detailing human emotions and sorrow. One night, Malcolm, husband of Sarah and father of eight-year-old Harry, is shot to death in front of his horrified family. McFarland is a master at getting inside a character's thoughts: the chapter in which Sarah navigates the nightmare of hospital corridors, police questioning, and the trip to the morgue is grueling in its immediacy. We soon realize that Sarah and Harry have no emotional support network. Sarah, unable to resume her work as a chemistry professor at a prestigious Boston university, turns to Malcolm's best friend, Deckard, a black Vietnam vet and recovered drug addict. But for Deckard, Malcolm's murder stirs up not only grief but also painful flashbacks of war and an abusive childhood. As Sarah and Deckard's friendship becomes strained, Harry suffers through nightmares on his own. The novel can't sustain the emotional impact of the initial chapters, but its sophisticated and subtle analysis of each character's grief and resolution is compelling. Highly recommended.
-DReba Leiding, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The aftermath of the random act of violence stuns Sarah and Harry. At the hospital Sarah calls Malcolm's best friend Deckard Jones, who cannot cope any better than the two survivors. Sarah finds herself increasingly alone, as she cannot hide her grief in her work as a chemical engineering professor. Harry suffers nightmares that haunt him during the day hiding it with apathy and withdrawal while crying and wetting his bed at night. Deck returns to Nam where he seen death and suicide as the norm. The near future for this trio is at best bleak, helpless, and unrelenting, as they must cope with tragedy by themselves.
As he did with THE MUSIC ROOM, Dennis McFarland provides his audience with an angst-filled tale of what emotionally and psychologically happens to the survivors. The tragedy occurs in the first chapter with the main story line centering on how each individual copes (or in many cases, not deal with) the sudden death of a loved one. Although a bit too melodramatic at times as secondary players also suffer and react in various ways to Malcolm's murder, Mr. McFarland has written a superb psychological thriller that emphasizes the feelings not the action.
Finally, I must say I'm still mad that I read a reviewer on Amazon that decided to reveal the ending for all who read his or her review. Thumbs down to you!
and his feelings about the disintigration of his family. I found this novel to be less of a "story" per se, and more like a vignette of a time in the lives of three people. It was satisfying but for some strange reason I can't quite put my finger on, this book did not stay with me once I finished it. Perhaps like it's subject matter the memory fades with the passage of time.
Want to see more reviews on this item?
Most recent customer reviews