Reviewer Gordon Osmond : Gordon is a produced and award-winning playwright and author of: So You Think You Know English--A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don't Need One, Wet Firecrackers--The Unauthorized Autobiography of Gordon Osmond and his debut novel Slipping on Stardust.
He has reviewed books and stageplays for http://CurtainUp.com and for the Bertha Klausner International Literary Agency. He is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School and practiced law on Wall Street for many years before concentrating on writing fiction and non-fiction. You can find out more about Gordon by clicking HERE
If one is beginning to think that one’s family life is a far cry from Father Knows Best, one will find comfort from perspective while getting to know the Ward family on Post Road, Bronx, as presented in Michael Canavan’s beautifully written tale of alcoholism, psychosis, incipient incest, and, most prevalently, suicide, entitled, curiously to this reader, The Nature of the Beast.
The Ward family’s basic structure is conventional enough—two parents, opposite sex; two children, opposite sex, but from that standard beginning many rather wild things flow.
Father Ward’s twin passions for drinking and driving dispatch his wife early on, a transgression for which he seeks to atone by abandoning his children in ascending degrees. Daughter Ward, a steroidal example of the “need-to-be-needed” syndrome, sacrifices all in the service of son Ward, who shows a commendable ability to survive the psychoses that surround him. Son Ward is aided in this effort by exposure to others not of the Ward flesh.
Although the novel spans a substantial number of years, Canavan chooses, wisely in this reader’s view, to tell the story by way of highly detailed accounts of key episodes in the lives of the Ward family. This focus enables the author to micromanage the emotional display of the characters in a highly effective way. Add to this a narrative style that is rhythmically seductive and you have an easy ride through some truly bumpy territory. For example:
“Always a broad smile would cross his face, and they would both become very animated as they traveled together back to one yesterday or another, talking over each other in their hurry to get the story out. But yesterday always became today again before long, and the smiles would settle somewhat, the mood would cool, and Stella would be left wondering if it did any good to talk about it at all.”
At times, things happen in the novel that make absolutely no sense. But then the reader is reminded that the illogicality of it all is not the author’s problem but rather evidence of the characters’ failure to grasp and deal with reality. As for recurring suicides, they come in a few flavors: indirect, direct, and not assisted, but inadvertently accompanied.
I can’t believe I managed to write this entire review without describing the family Ward as “dysfunctional.” Perhaps I have an aversion to understatement.
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