Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"Housebreaking," by Dan Pope

I admit it: I usually get my literary domestic drama (in the broad sense of focusing on families and their relationships) fix from novels by women writers. The few exceptions among contemporary writers (living or only recently deceased) include (some of) the fiction of Julian Barnes, Peter Cameron, Kent Haruf, Andrew O’Hagan, Stewart O’Nan, Richard Russo, Akhil Sharma, Colm Toibin, and William Trevor. A review of Dan Pope’s novel “Housebreaking” (Simon & Schuster, 2015) caught my interest, I found it in the library, and I must say it held my attention quite firmly throughout. It is about two youngish families living in Connecticut who have recently moved (or moved back) to the same street, and how their lives intersect in ways that are both positive and problematic. Each family member gets her or his own section of the novel, so we readers see some of the same events from several perspectives. There are two marriages in trouble, one adolescent who is seriously struggling after a heartrending loss in the family, and one elderly widowed father and his surprising but comforting new love interest. We also get glimpses into the work worlds of some of the characters, especially the Cadillac sales business and the big law firm business. Some of the elements in the troubled lives of the main characters are adultery, tragedy, love, loyalty, drugs, sex, juvenile delinquency, unhealthy and dangerous use of smartphones and social media, and more. The tone is a mixture of jaunty, world-weary, vulnerable, and hopeful. "Housebreaking" feels very believable and organic.
Site Meter