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Everyday People Hardcover – February 20, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
The protean O'Nan seems determined to touch nearly every facet of human experience in a remarkable variety of times and places. In such brilliant novels as Snow Angel and A Prayer for the Dying, he's created distinctive, almost palpable worlds rich in moral complexities. But while his apparent purpose in writing this new novel (after the nonfiction The Circus Fire) is commendable, this story of African-Americans victimized by poverty and racial bias does not develop the mesmerizing narrative tension that distinguishes his previous work. The characters whose intertwined lives are presented in short chapters are residents of a declining African-American community near Pittsburgh, where drug use offers escape from teenage boredom and a lack of job opportunities; gang wars and violent crime inevitably follow. O'Nan's empathy for his characters conveys their sense of frustration and powerlessness, the restlessness of teenagers and the older generations' stoic dignity. Each character exists in a state of grief. At 18, Chris "Crest" Tolbert is trying to adjust to life in a wheelchair, from an accident in which he and his best buddy, Bean, fell off a thruway overpass while drawing graffiti. Bean died, and his grandmother, Miss Fisk, is admired by the community for her Job-like endurance. Chris's father is hiding a homosexual love for a younger man; his older brother accepted religion in prison and is striving to keep others from going down the path he followed. Nobody is innately bad; each is a victim of the system or of life's ironies. O'Nan's sensitive portraits of these people plumbs the depths of their longings for a decent break but, oddly for this always intense author, the narrative lacks vitality. Earnest, even heartfelt, the novel seems studied and its plot too obviously charted. Still, O'Nan gets the voices just right, especially the homeboy argot and casual obscenities, and flashes of fine writing redeem this admirable but disappointing effort by an outstanding writer. Agent, David Gernert.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
O'Nan's depictions of the African American families in East Liberty, a small enclave near Pittsburgh, are startling: the two teenage graffiti artists who fall off a bridge, one killed, the other trapped in a wheelchair; the boy murdered in a turf war; the former gang member who got religion in prison; and the single mother trying to better herself. Additionally, having Giancarlo Esposito to read this book was inspired. The only problem is that, despite all the inherent possibilities for drama, listeners are left with mere description. For more than two tapes, the words simply drift past, floating from one character to the next, interesting but never engrossing. Finally, on the second side of tape three, the narrative asserts itself, and we begin to follow changes in the characters' interactions, even if transitions from one scene to the next are often muddled. This reviewer was left questioning the abridgment; descriptions of Vanessa's college class, for example, which don't further the tale, could easily have been omitted. As it stands, with its extremely pat conclusion, this audiobook has little to recommend it. Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News,"New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
O'Nan is one of my favorite authors and it says a lot for him that he can write about anything in the world and make you believe he has lived that life or walked in those shoes. His talent is his knowledge and understanding of people.
In EVERYDAY PEOPLE O'Nan introduces us to the people in East Liberty. These people try to do their best while living in poverty, dealing with gangs, violence, crime. Now to make everything worse, their neighborhood is being isolated from the rest of the community with the opening of a new expressway.
We are introduced to the Tolbert family. Their son Crest has been horribly injured, their other son just released from prison, and to top things off, parents Jackie and Harold's marriage is rocky. Add to their family a mix of neighbors and friends who live in East Liberty and you meet a colorful blend of folks, complete with all life has to throw in their paths. Believe me, these people make the best of bad situations.
Fences try to be mended, marriages are tested, babies born, murders, crime, jobs lost, relationships, the loss of loved ones -- you know, everyday people just like you and me. But thrown into the mix is the hardship of tough living in a world where no one seemingly seems to care.
While not my favorite O'Nan books, this one is with its merits and I truly enjoyed living in this Pennsylvania neighborhood, The people are solid and caring, their life situations hard, but hope abounds. If you enjoy character novels that will give you plenty to think about and to be thankful for, this is a book you would enjoy. I love O'Nan's books and his writing diversity.