Second Son

Overview

One more day working under his father's cool and critical gaze is more than Jack Pleasance can take—so he lights out for Richmond, leaving behind a small Virginia hometown; his father, Addie; and his girlfriend, Karen. Jack sleepwalks through odd jobs and pointless liaisons, while Addie stubbornly buries his rage in work.

Jack doesn't intend to stay away forever, but weeks collect into years, until home draws him inexorably back to the ...
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Overview

One more day working under his father's cool and critical gaze is more than Jack Pleasance can take—so he lights out for Richmond, leaving behind a small Virginia hometown; his father, Addie; and his girlfriend, Karen. Jack sleepwalks through odd jobs and pointless liaisons, while Addie stubbornly buries his rage in work.

Jack doesn't intend to stay away forever, but weeks collect into years, until home draws him inexorably back to the unfinished and painful business of his life: his mother's suicide when he was five, and the accidental death of his brother Roy—the first, and chosen, son.

With brilliant clarity, Stephen Stark renders the hard, scuffed surfaces of these two men's lives, drawing us into the arcs of their separate journeys toward forgiveness. For Jack, it will take an act of courage and violence; for Addie, an unexpected source of love squares the circle. Second Son limns the hazardous landscape of love—erotic, parental, and filial—weaving a sensuous, powerful story of what is to be a man, and ultimately, what is to be a family.

This New York Times Notable Book of the Year is the story of a man who attempts to leave his family and painful past behind by moving to Richmond. Focusing on what happens as he struggles to build a new life, Second Son is ultimately a suspenseful work that masterfully explores what it means to be a man--and a family.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This moving and eloquent--if at times overwrought--novel examines a difficult father-son relationship, one forged in the crucible of tragedy. Jack Pleasance's mother committed suicide when he was a child, and his only brother was killed in an Air Force helicopter accident. To escape this dark past, 26-year-old Jack cuts himself off from his inscrutable father, Addie. Abruptly leaving a job in Richmond and settling in a Virginia hamlet, he is drawn into an affair with a masochistic woman who is almost old enough to be his mother, and also falls in love with a younger woman who is married to a jealous and trigger-happy drug dealer. Meanwhile, Addie takes up with the girlfriend his son has left behind. Shifting between Jack's story, which Jack narrates, and Addie's tale, recounted in the third person, this ambitious and charged narrative unfolds the Pleasance family's history, as violence and maturity bring father and son to new understanding. Stark ( The Outskirts ) uses fresh, vigorous language to illuminate complex emotions, but his tendency to endow his characters with preternatural self-awareness tests the limits of plausibiity. Yet the sustained elegaic tone is a powerful magnet that holds the reader to the page. 15,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (July)
Library Journal
Addie Pleasance handles the pain inflicted by his wife's suicide and elder son's accidental death by retreating into stoic silence and the doing of neighborly good deeds. His son Jack deals with it by keeping on the move from place to place, job to job, woman to woman. Father and son are separated--more by their inability to communicate than by the actual miles between them--until one summer when each meets a woman who will change his life and lead finally to the ability to express his love. But for Jack, commitment lies on the far side of a violent confrontation with his lover's drug-dealing, gun-loving, robber husband. Stark ( The Outskirts , Algonquin Bks., 1988) writes well of the small towns in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and the people who inhabit them. But his story of the tensions between parents and children, the ways in which people isolate themselves, transcends any specific setting.-- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Washington Post - Carolyn See
‘Second Son’ is a loving, beautiful, melancholy novel about growing up in death’s shadow, with no reasonable hope of happiness, and how, with luck, happiness may surprise us by its unreasonable and unexpected appearance.
Library Journal - Charles Michaud
Addie Pleasance handles the pain inflicted by his wife's suicide and elder son's accidental death by retreating into stoic silence and the doing of neighborly good deeds. His son Jack deals with it by keeping on the move from place to place, job to job, woman to woman. Father and son are separated—more by their inability to communicate than by the actual miles between them—until one summer when each meets a woman who will change his life...
Kirkus Reviews - Kirkus Associates
There is delight, and a kind of solace, in how well Stark knows working-class lives, in how his men talk, in how they redo a kitchen or overhaul an engine, in how they love their women. Stark's love scenes are magnificent in their power and subtlety, and particularly in how they lunge out of control. ... Stark is passionate, lyrical, even funny.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671871192
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Pages: 373
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Stark is the author of the novels The Final Appearance of America's Favorite Girl Next Door, Second Son and The Outskirts. Second Son was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the year, and a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers pick. He is also a bestselling ghostwriter. His essays, short stories, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The Washington Post and the New York Times Book Review, among other journals. Honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Bread Loaf, where he has also taught. He has taught and worked in the administration of the creative writing program at the University of Houston. Stark lives in Virginia and is a graduate of George Mason University and the writing program at Hollins University.
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