The Falling Boy

Overview

In his novel, set in a Montana town during the 1950s and 1960s, David Long charts the inner life of a young carpenter, Mark Singer, whose marriage to Olivia, one of the four Stavros sisters, draws him into the tensions and joys of family life. Raised by his grandmother, Mark is a stranger to the teasing humor and smoldering resentments that preside at the Stavros dinner table. His favorite pastime is to watch these four women: Olivia, the serious and stable sister; Celia, whose "calamitous history" with men is ...
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Overview

In his novel, set in a Montana town during the 1950s and 1960s, David Long charts the inner life of a young carpenter, Mark Singer, whose marriage to Olivia, one of the four Stavros sisters, draws him into the tensions and joys of family life. Raised by his grandmother, Mark is a stranger to the teasing humor and smoldering resentments that preside at the Stavros dinner table. His favorite pastime is to watch these four women: Olivia, the serious and stable sister; Celia, whose "calamitous history" with men is famous in Sperry; Helen, the dutiful manager of her father's cafe; and Linny, the oldest and most enigmatic, who slowly begins to cast a spell over her brother-in-law. The two embark on an illicit affair just as Nick Stavros struggles to save his failing business. And as events lurch out of control, threatening to unravel this closely knit family, Mark must confront the nature of marriage and desire.
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Editorial Reviews

Robert Houston
A love poem for an era, a place and a people....[Long displays a] calm capacity for warmth and gentle humor. -- NY Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
His quiet insights into the lives of people living on the western frontier distinguished Long's prize-winning short-story collection, "Blue Spruce." In this emotionally resonant first novel, he captures the texture of a generally uneventful life and creates a keenly observed and poignantly accurate portrait of the human condition. Mark Singer is a well-meaning but fallible young man who finds intimacy, joy and pain in his relationship with two of the four Stavros sisters of Sperry, Mont. Raised by his grandmother after his mother ran off and his wastrel father died in a fracas outside a nightclub, Mark craves the embrace of a large family. When, at age 22, he weds Olivia, third daughter of Nick Stavros, who runs the Vagabond Cafe, he is still unsure of himself and hopes he is mature enough for marriage. Olivia is withdrawn and moody, however, and a decade later, with two children, a mortgaged house and an only marginally lucrative job as a construction worker, Mark has inchoate feelings of emptiness and restlessness as he reflects on his "paltry life." When the eldest Stavros sister, Linny, returns to town, she ignites a spark in Mark that becomes unquenchable passion. Their affair and its inevitable consequences plunge Mark and the Stavros family into chaos. Long renders the essence of Mark's mundane working days, and the excitement of his feverish trysts with Linny in lean prose that strikes each note true and clear. In addition to the thrilling tension of adultery, the narrative examines the subtle frictions and affections of sibling and father-daughter relationships, the disequilibriums and the harmonies of marriage, the camaraderie and petty irritations of men who work together. At the end, Mark understands what it is to lose one's footing and fall, and how one can climb back to safety and love. Unpretentiously profound, this is a memorable novel.
Library Journal
Not since John Updike's "Marry Me", perhaps, has there been such an honest and unflinching moral examination of marital infidelity as this finely crafted novel by the author of the prize-winning story collection "Blue Spruce." Set in Montana during the Eisenhower era of the early 1950s, it explores the emotional life of Mark Singer, a construction worker who marries young, fathers a couple of kids, and then finds himself inexorably drawn to his wife's seductive older sister. The pair enter headlong into an affair, which, not surprisingly, proves painful to all three of the parties concerned. While many readers will recognize this real-life scenario, Long displays a deft hand in dealing with it. And in the process, he manages to unearth some powerful truths about love, family, and the "forces that fling people apart." Recommended. David Sowd, formerly with Stark Cty. Dist. Lib., Canton, Ohio
Kirkus Reviews
Long remains in Montana for his first novel ("Blue Spruce", 1995), the pleasant, homely tale of a young man without a family of his own who gets mixed up—in more ways than one—with the daughters of a Greek-American restaurant owner.

Mark Singer's father died in a bar brawl and his mother disappeared, so he came to be raised—during the 1940s—by his grandmother in the town of Sperry, Montana. And where was his favorite place to pass the time? Well, the Vagabond Cafe, owned and run by Nick Stavros with the help of his wife (until her death in 1947) and four daughters, these being, from oldest to youngest, Linny (short for Evangeline), Celia, Olivia, and tomboy Helen. It's 1952 when the story opens with Mark's marriage (at 22) to the serious-minded and sweetly domestic if moody Olivia, who gives him two kids in fairly quick time, but who doesn't—well, keep life compelling enough to prevent Mark from falling into the arms and bed of long-limbed, restless oldest-sister Linnie upon her sudden return from a handful of incognito years (she'd even missed Celia's wedding) in the beatnik streets and alleys of San Francisco. As for plot, there's not much more. Mark's passion, however, and his guilt mount in almost equal degree, until one night, "as if he's doing them all an enormous service," he tells all to an Olivia who's already been deeply depressed of late. A third of the novel is left, and let it only be said that all works out in an oddly undramatic but satisfying way—and that, from start to end, there's a steady feast of detail to be supped on as Mark goes through workdays (as a contractor's helper), night drives, outings into the countryside, and trips into memory.

A closely observed tale of domestic life that remains real all the way through.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452279971
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/1/1998
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.77 (d)

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