The Falling Boy, David Long, Scribner, 1997, 287 pp
I discovered this writer on a blog: beatrice.com, where he was interviewed by the blog's founder, Ron Hogan. Though he had published three volumes of short stories earlier, this is his first novel. I liked it. It was written in that odd decade, the 90s, end of a century, end of a millennium, when people still wrote novels about people, their daily lives, their hearts. Perhaps because of the times, novels in the 90s often looked at how lives hadn't quite turned out the way we planned.
Mark Singer, the falling boy here, had a history of diminished dreams. At first, as he marries a beautiful, passionate woman, life is turning out to be much better than he could have hoped. He was practically an orphan: mother took off, father an alcoholic who died in dubious circumstances, so that Mark was raised by his dependable but emotionally frozen grandmother.
But life goes on, the marriage suffers the deterioration which all marriages do and Mark really starts to blow it. It would have been the usual 20th century marital tragedy except for a few factors. Small town Montana, where the story is set, is fairly conservative as American towns go. Olivia, Mark's wife, though she has serious character flaws for a late 20th century woman, comes from a tightknit Greek family and has three sisters.
I know about sisters. Three girls, no boys in my family. Each of these women in Olivia's family has her own issues. I couldn't say that any one of them is "normal" or even "well-adjusted". One is downright destructive. But when bad trouble looms, they band together and in their own way muddle through to save the day.
This is not a novel to fire your blood or even raise your heartbeat. But I loved the way the weather was a character, the way these human beings had an underlying loyalty to each other as fellow sojourners in the very odd and unpredictable enterprise which we call life.