Bestselling thriller writer Thayer changes gears this time out with a semi-autobiographical novel about three generations of one family. If there is an undertone of therapeutic exercise in this book, it is because that is how the novel came about. As the author explains in an epilogue a letter to Thayer's deceased father he was told to write a letter to his dead father to help overcome a bout of depression. Instead, Thayer wrote from his home in Lake Elmo, Minn., to a fictional, biracial daughter named Angela who "began writing back" from Los Angeles. Along with his letters and Angela's diary entries, Thayer spliced in edited excerpts from his father's diary; the compiled assemblage forms the book. While there is a fair amount of dialogue and plot development in the various missives, the author is hemmed in by the format. Letters and diaries do not allow for the kind of rich narrative and vivid character interactions that we have come to expect from Thayer, who in earlier works has shown himself to be an accomplished storyteller. The contrivance of the format keeps the characters and their viewpoints separate, resulting in an overall flatness to the unfolding story about a man who scarcely knew his father and abandoned his daughter. Occasional scenes involving the daughter's abusive grandmother and a chilling description of sickle cell anemia, which killed Angela's mother, are well constructed. Thayer does a decent job of capturing three distinct voices here the innocence of one who fought in WWII as he tries to understand the dissolution of his marriage; the tribulations of a baby boomer who has lost the love of his life; and an interracial pre-adolescent searching for her identity butone longs for a more compelling and thorough examination of their lives. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
A portentous epistolary exercise in which a Minnesotan father explains himself to, and ultimately reunites with, his ten-year-old daughter in Los Angeles. The story opens as little Angela watches the fires from the 1992 riots flicker from her bedroom window. She's frightened and wants to die, now that her summer visit to Minnesota has been called off by her mean old grandmother. A girl of assiduous literary habits, Angela notes all these things in her journal, whose entries are interspersed with the meditative letters she receives from her father. Steve not only speaks excitedly about their forthcoming meeting, he also recalls both his marriage to Angela's mother, Penny, and his own father's life and struggles. Anglo Steve from the Midwest made a splash when he married beautiful, African-American Penny and fathered Angela. (Cue Angela's diary entry about being taunted as an "oreo.") But Penny died tragically from sickle-cell anemia shortly after the baby's birth, and Steve lit out for home, leaving Angela with Penny's folks—most prominently, Penny's bitter mother, Nana, who has many extramarital affairs and beats her granddaughter for no reason. Meanwhile, Steve relates the story of his father, "Zeke," WWII veteran and all-around good guy who was forced to abandon Steve when his mother took him away to her second, disastrous marriage. (Cue more diary entries: Zeke's this time, illustrating his goodness, his perseverance, and his neglected virtues.) Finally, back to the main plot: one of Angela's concerned neighbors writes Steve about a beating she saw the girl receive; he decides the vacation can't wait and plucks Angela from her dismal situation. It helps not at all thatThayer (Silent Snow, 1999, etc.) includes a confusing letter to his own real father, confessing that when he was being treated for depression he was supposed to write to Dad, but wrote this novel instead. Slight and forgettable