From Publishers Weekly
An absorbing, resonant domestic drama, McFarland's latest follows the dysfunctional Owen family's reunion in Point Clear, Ala., 10 months after the death of the family's alcoholic patriarch, Roy. Of the three adult children, Ellen, a published poet, is separated from her husband for the summer and caring for their young son, Willie. With her high-strung, opinionated brother, Morris, and Richard, Morris's partner of 14 years, Ellen and Willie travel to the family's Point Clear estate, where the youngest, Bonnie, has been living since abandoning a floundering Manhattan theatrical career to care for ailing Roy. The occasion is Bonnie's quickie marriage to a young, dashing evangelical preacher named Pastor Vandorpe, who credits himself with having saved Bonnie. Bonnie is pregnant and, she tells an incredulous Ellen, happy. The addition of Pastor's pious parents powers a destructive tension, with everyone locking horns over homosexuality, gay marriage, religion and property ownership. A strained family dinner denouement ignites a clash pitting Ellen and Morris against an ex-gay minister invited to save Morris. Can a crisis of faith be far behind? Though McFarland (Prince Edward
, etc.) imparts a religious message that feels heavy-handed in spots, his ability to tap the hearts and minds of his carefully considered characters adds up to an evocative novel. (Aug.)
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In his latest novel, McFarland returns to a favored theme of a family ravaged by tragedy, only in this case it would seem the tragedy is one of their own making. Safely ensconced in their respective New England homes, siblings Ellen and Morris Owen learn of their younger sister's impetuous marriage to an evangelical minister actually named Pastor Vandorpe, and that the couple are now residing in the family mansion along the Alabama coast. Assuming that, like her drug abuse and failed acting career, this is yet another one of Bonnie's reckless forays into self-destruction, Ellen and Morris rush home to assess the situation for themselves. They find Bonnie calm, happy, and several months pregnant, but as the pastor spends more time with the brother-in-law he just found out is gay, his ministerial duty to correct the error of Morris' ways threatens to unravel his marriage, if not his psyche. Portraying each conversation and every encounter as an emotional minefield, McFarland is at the peak of his psychological prowess. Haggas, Carol