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Letter from Point Clear by Dennis McFarland

Letter from Point Clear

290 pages; Holt
In Letter from Point Clear (Holt), Dennis McFarland conjures the love, need, discomfort, resentment, and warmth shared among grown siblings. His Owen clan, two sisters and a brother, are clever and appealing, and they remind you of J.D. Salinger's famous (fictional) Glass family. Like Salinger's Franny, Zooey, and Seymour, the Owens are witty, they have unusual depth, and they are quite screwed up. Of course, in keeping with the cultural transformations of the last four decades, the Owenses are not nearly so well educated as the Glasses. On the upside, they are not nearly so morose: Where Salinger was melancholy, McFarland is highly amused. Youngest sister Bonnie, a struggling New York actress, has returned home to Point Clear, Alabama, originally to care for the family's ailing father and then, after he dies, to marry an impenetrably unironic young evangelist preacher. Her brother, Morris, who's gay, and sister Ellen, who's sophisticated, are properly horrified and head down South to save her from this worst of American fates. But who is saving whom becomes the question at the center of the story. McFarland, who has five previous novels that I now intend to obtain, is addictively readable without for a moment being simple. He is a master satirist, subtle and unerring in his portrait of contemporary life. What he is doing, his deliciously sharp and humorous vision, is becoming ever more rare in our national fiction, which, like the hardy evangelist, suffers these days from an overload of sincerity and high principles. But it is McFarland's laughing scalpel that cuts deeper, and so comes closer to touching the soul.
— Vince Passaro

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