From Publishers Weekly
) puts sensitive, studious Francis Kelly in the loving if slightly snarky hands of his older sister, Clare, who tells Francis's story with tenderness, admiration and affection, along with an occasional barb. Fran, a Catholic youth-group leader, is 35; his wife, Lourdes, has recently died of cancer, before they could start a family. Clare, taking care of Fran as he tries to climb out of depression, describes their youth near Cincinnati (both now live in the Boston suburbs), including two hippie parents and a shared passion for punk and related forms of rock. As Fran comes back to himself by connecting with a local rock chick 12 years younger (and whom he used to mentor), Clare has her own vicissitudes, dealing with marriage and children while working as an ER nurse, lamenting her lost youth and acting as the family liaison. Clare rolls her eyes as Fran takes up the bass and gets a tattoo, but is mostly nice to him. Halpin matches his prose to Clare's ordinariness and makes the progress of Fran's band less of interest in and of itself than as a regressive coping mechanism that works. Clare herself is not quite compelling, but her care for Fran carries the book. (On sale Jan. 3)
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Unexpected death and the grieving process have long been preoccupations of author Halpin, who lost his wife to breast cancer. In his new novel (following Donorboy,
2004), devout Catholic and hard-core Ramones fan Francis suffers the ultimate loss when his loving, supersmart wife is felled by a brain aneurysm. The story of his healing, which takes many surprising turns, is told in the funny, sympathetic voice of his sister, Clare. For a devastated Francis, onetime church youth-group leader, the road to recovery starts with a bass guitar and eventually includes a tattoo and membership in a gay punk band whose most popular song is dedicated to describing the allure of Astroglide lubricant. It's a testament to Halpin's skill for mixing the sacred with the profane that such scenes are often juxtaposed with others featuring Clare's whispered prayers and refreshingly unabashed declarations of faith. Similarly, Clare's irreverent sense of humor acts as a check on the bathos forever threatening to swamp the narrative; nevertheless, some readers will be completely undone by this tender novel's final passages. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved