A third novel from the author of, most recently, Pilgrim's Harbor (1992) traces the travails of a dysfunctional Jewish family from the 1930s through the mid-70s.
Myron Adler and Faye Raskin are a terribly mismatched couple. He's the crude, vulgar owner of a live poultry market, suffering the aftereffects of his parents' refusal to let him marry a Catholic. She's a would-be artist on the rebound from a series of relationships with men she considered worthy of her pretensions. Such a union could only have disastrous resultsand it does. Unwilling to take out his frustrations on his wife, Myron belts his sons, Richard and Daniel, regularly. Equally frustrated by her status in life, Faye does likewise. Richard grows up to be a self-absorbed compulsive overeater who feels cheated by the world. Daniel, by contrast, is perfection itself, a terrific athlete and excellent student who becomes a successful architect and loving father. Skloot recounts this tale in an apparent profusion of voices, a dense thicket of points of view made problematical by his inability to differentiate among them. Everything comes out in tedious faux Brooklyn Jewish dialect seemingly out of sitcom-land. And his people are astonishingly crude stereotypes that only a Roth or Bellow could breathe life into. While Skloot makes some effort to mitigate the parents' behavior, the book breaks down into a highly schematic (and unconvincing) set of heroes and villains. A final transformation of Faye from ogress to lovable, wacky older temptress is particularly embarrassing.
Filled with sloppy writing and a transparently manipulated castand further burdened by cartoonish violence that seems to exist only to give a cheap jolt of energy to an otherwise lifeless story.