Friday, February 5, 2010

Book Review: "Lying with the Dead" by Michael Mewshaw

Family dysfunction is a tremendously popular subject for fiction, perhaps because it takes on so many different layers. The family in Michael Mewshaw's Lying with the Dead certainly had it tough. A physically and verbally abusive mother whose guilt grows as she grows older has summoned her three children home—Candy, the polio-stricken oldest child who has stayed in Maryland to care for her mother, sacrificing her desire for her own life; Maury, who struggles with Asperger's as well as the memories of a crime he committed when he was a teenager; and Quinn, an actor who fled to London rather than deal with his family.

As you might imagine, a number of secrets are revealed in this book, old wounds are reopened, pain is inflicted and recovery seems imminent in some cases. And yet with all of that said, I didn't care all that much. I felt as if Quinn's character, perhaps because he was the most colorful, was the one Mewshaw developed the fullest, which left the other characters as sort of shadows in the background. But this left me wanting more, and not feeling particularly fulfilled by the story. Everything unfolded as I expected it to, so while the characters were surprised by certain actions, I wasn't. And while they were moved by what was happening to them, I wasn't.

I think Mewshaw writes well and had a great premise for a story. Sadly, it went the route of paint-by-numbers soap opera rather than a fully-fleshed out story.

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