Answers to Lucky: A Novel

Answers to Lucky: A Novel

by Howard Owen
     
 

On Valentine's Day, 1946, Tommy Sweatt, a North Carolina man with a fifth-grade education and a teeth-grinding desire to amount to something, becomes the father of twin sons. He names them Thomas Edison Sweatt and Jack Dempsey Sweatt, and he drives them, from the cradle on, to be the best and the brightest. For a time they both are. When Jack, nicknamed "Lucky,"… See more details below

Overview

On Valentine's Day, 1946, Tommy Sweatt, a North Carolina man with a fifth-grade education and a teeth-grinding desire to amount to something, becomes the father of twin sons. He names them Thomas Edison Sweatt and Jack Dempsey Sweatt, and he drives them, from the cradle on, to be the best and the brightest. For a time they both are. When Jack, nicknamed "Lucky," contracts polio in the fall of 1954, he becomes figuratively invisible to his father. Tom Ed and Lucky's relationship is weakened by their father's obvious preference for the former, and as soon as he is able, Lucky disassociates himself from his family. It is now 1992: Tom Ed is the good ol' boy Republican candidate for governor of North Carolina in a heated race and Lucky returns with a mind to reconnect with his estranged family. Infidelity, deception, pride, and a rich man's secret wrath conspire to turn the election - and the fortunes of the Sweatt family - in directions no one could have foreseen.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Loud, hard-drinking truck driver Thomas Wayne Sweatt wants his twin sons, born in 1946, to be the strongest and smartest in North Carolina, so he and his wife name one boy Jack Dempsey (``Lucky'') Sweatt, and the other Thomas Edison Sweatt. When Lucky contracts polio at age eight, his father begins to consider the boy a source of bad luck and thereafter favors budding athlete Tom Ed, who goes on to play minor league basketball in the 1960s. High-school dropout Lucky, meanwhile, lives in a trailer, works in a factory and is estranged from his family. This third novel from Owen, author of the praised Littlejohn, is a quietly powerful narrative, a poignant study of sibling rivalry and family dysfunction. By 1992, Lucky is running a bed-and-breakfast in Virginia with his wife, but he suddenly shows up to help Tom Ed, now an unscrupulous Republican politician, in his bid for the governorship of North Carolina. A number of subplots swirl around the campaign- Tom Ed courts the religious right and a pro-life group (while paying for a lover's abortion); he is secretly involved in a real estate swindle; a doctor is charged with murder after he accidentally runs over a fundamentalist minister-but these strands are either undeveloped or tend to the melodramatic. The real interest, as the title suggests, lies in Lucky; politically liberal, the adoptive father of two Vietnamese children and one black boy, he is an outsider in more than one sense. Lucky's search for emotional closure as he confronts his good ol' boy brother and their distant father gains emotional resonance in Owen's sure evocation of Southern life. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
In a rich regional diction, and with flights of satiric darts aimed at hometown politicking, a completely engaging story about the family ties that bind—tight—and the ego-pricking legacy of growing up poor.

Owen (Littlejohn, 1992; Fat Lightning, 1994) tells of middle- aged North Carolina twins—one running for governor—who are trying to work out the persistent influence of a father's obsession. Tommy Sweatt grew up in river-rat country, hardscrabble mean, then married well-off Genie, who stood by him even when, after the birth of twin boys (christened Jack Dempsey and Tom Edison Sweatt), her mother tried to buy her son-in-law into a divorce. It was then that Tommy made a vow: He would raise Jack and Tom Ed to be the best, "to make everyone wish they were Sweatts." So he drilled the two hard, and they—close, united, hounded by their father—excelled. But at eight, Jack, nicknamed "Lucky," contracted polio, and Tommy withdrew his love to concentrate on Tom Ed. Lucky then became just another debility that Tom Ed had to overcome—like being poor or hitting a curve. The isolated Lucky achieved and then floundered, erupted in hatred of Tom Ed and the town—until his happy marriage, family and new life in Virginia. Now, though, he is summoned by Tommy to drive Tom Ed in his campaign: to towns, "pig pickin's," tobacco farms, colleges. The public likes Tom Ed—and, an artist at political oratory, he keeps his private self hidden: except in an unwise love affair, or in tipping his hand to Lucky. The men touch their old intimacy, and in a close race it looks like Tom Ed is edging ahead. But no one can foresee the tragicomic end to a lifelong dream.

With poignancy, loamy humor, and home truths about the kind of politics where "People don't want Integrity and Commitment. People want the room to light up."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060928094
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/01/1997
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.32(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.55(d)

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