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The Road to the Island

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When marathon runner Big Jim Dolan is killed jogging one night in the small Connecticut town of Newfield at the start of this earnest debut, it falls to his younger son and namesake, a 32-year-old college professor, to solve the mystery surrounding his father's death. Flying home for the funeral forces Jimmy to confront other ghosts as well, notably a brief affair with a high-school teacher that culminated in tragedy and the feeling that he and his brother, Gary, disappointed Big Jim‘Gary by evading the Vietnam War and Jimmy by turning his back on Newfield four years earlier, leaving behind a wife and young son. Jimmy feels guilty about practically everything, including his brother, who mows lawns for a living, and his mother, an "emotional miser," who refuses to grieve for her husband. Despite a good deal of sentence-to-sentence banality ("`Jimmy, what about my job!' She paused. `What about us?'"), Hazuka's first-person narrative gathers tension as it gradually reveals Jimmy's past. But when Jimmy discovers he's been cruelly deceived by those closest to him, the characterization falters‘he can't seem to get angry. Otherwise, the novel presents a convincing if unmemorable portrait of a sensitive young man struggling to make things right in a world where, most often, everything goes wrong. Agent, Writers House; editor, Barbara Philips. (Sept.)

In this debut novel, a father's funeral brings a man back to his small Connecticut hometown‘and his former wife and son‘after an absence of five years. "Guilt for an innocent prank that turned deadly," Jimmy explains. "Shame for being too weak to leave that guilt behind, and leaving my wife and son instead." He discovers that his former wife plans to marry his best friend, Roger, who has kept a devastating secret about Jimmy's father's death. Once this truth surfaces, Jimmy begins to come to terms with his own haunted past. He concludes that "home is where the heart is, but it's taking me forever to find mine." The evocation of small-town life and popular culture in the Sixties is memorable, but the characters and events never reach any significant depth. Not required for most collections.‘David A. Beronä, Univ. of New England, Biddleford, ME

Deftly balances back-fence realism with a suercharged expository moments oh high moral purpose and somber grace The New York Times

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