Paul Gervais Extraordinary People

ISBN 13: 9780060923709

Extraordinary People

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9780060923709: Extraordinary People
From Kirkus Reviews:

A first novel that reads like a work-in-progress, with assorted chapters from a memoir of a Lowell, Massachusetts, family: unloving father, alcoholic mother, and two mama's boys who become gay men. It starts jauntily enough, with the focus on Meg Beeler, a dazzlingly attractive young mother on a 1958 visit to N.Y.C. with her sons Cliff and Sam. Away from her ``old poop'' of a husband, Meg is out for a fun time, and not averse to having a fling with a stranger in his hotel room; in the next chapter we see her with her best friend Pauline, ``two beautiful, madcap blondes'' flirting their way through an innocent summer at the shore. Then the focus shifts, first to narrator Sam, pining for a less rowdy family, then to older brother Cliff, a Peeping Tom who does not disguise from Sam his interest in men's bodies. We lurch forward in time, and deeper into presumably autobiographical quicksands: Sam, eager to distance himself from his family, is studying enology in Vermont. He bemoans his father's failure to confront Meg's drinking problem, and to love Cliff and himself the way he loves his nephews. Another lurch ahead, and Sam is a highly qualified winemaker on an Italian estate, living with his lover Fred, while stateside Cliff (soon to die of AIDS) cares for the increasingly addled Meg. This might have been a full-length portrait of a trapped housewife; a gay coming-of-age story; or even a drama of sibling rivalry. Curiously, Gervais never made this fundamental choice; the result is a work without shape and direction. -- Copyright 1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

A series of wry, profoundly sad stories are loosely woven into a first novel chronicling the emotional chasms that yawn between blood relatives. The title notwithstanding, the Beelers of North Tewksbury, Mass., are extraordinarily ordinary people, even in their tragedies. The family linchpin is wife and mother Meg, a beautiful, restless, shallow woman dissatisfied with her mundane life. Meg drinks too much, resulting in outrageous behavior that prompts her stolid husband Gerald to withdraw from his own family while lavishing love and attention on his brother's children. The Beelers' theatrical older son Cliff eggs Meg on, dubbing her "Baronness" and "Aretha," and screaming with laughter at her antics. Sam, the youngest son and the poker-faced narrator who longs to be adopted by a picture-book family, is both appalled by Meg and grudgingly admiring of her, angry at his father's defection and baffled by Cliff. As years pass, his secret wish to be an orphan seems likely to be granted, as the Beelers are whittled down by cancer, AIDS and, in Meg's case, a dementia that causes the reader to laugh and wince. Meanwhile, having escaped to Italy, Sam flatly vetoes his lover Fred's bid to adopt a child. This sometimes self-consciously metaphorical debut has sufficient grace, sharp-eyed observation and humor to balance its pain.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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