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Singing Boy: A Novel Hardcover – Mar 1 2001

3.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Strong Is the New Pretty

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Product details

  • 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: 3.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
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Product description

From Amazon

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.

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