Hollis Clayton is in trouble. His wife has decamped to her sister's house for the summer, leaving him to pursue without interruption his increasingly overwhelming compulsions: drinking; spying on the neighbors; following with rising anxiety the fate of a recently abducted local girl, hauntingly portrayed on a nearby billboard; confronting, as obliquely as possible, the loss of his young son; and avoiding his editor at New York's preeminent publishing house, who is on the verge of rejecting his new collection of stories. In the meantime, he has more immediate difficulties: a stray dog with whom he is forced to share his nightly Mexican takeout; a back injury resulting from an adventure on his neighbor's trampoline; and his girlfriend, Marissa, who has either abandoned him or been abandoned by him, he's not sure which. From the vantage point of his front porch, it seems to Hollis that the daily rhythms of his disintegrating life have begun to seem eerily inflected with meaning. Bewildered by what is either life's total arbitrariness or its suffocating overdetermination, Hollis is stuck somewhere between wonder and paralysis, with his troubled soul hanging in the balance. Before the close of this strange summer he will either slip beyond hope of recovery into a haze of lassitude and alcoholism, or find some promise, however vague, of redemption. In an eviscerating comic portrait of suburban despair, Elizabeth Winthrop captures the mysterious seasons of a man's inner and outer life - marriage, grief, existential confusion, and finally, unforgettably, abiding love - and the human spirit's insistent and sometimes incongruous motion toward grace. A marvelous debut by a precocious new talent.
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