Second-novelist Ansay (Vinegar Hill, 1994) again traces the scars
of childhood emotional abuse - here, strikingly rendered, the
crippling and even deadly effects of abuse on the lives of Abby and
Sam Schiller, the children of a sadistic small-town midwestern car
dealer, as they grow toward troubled adulthood in the 1970s and
'80s. The characters are vivid, the reconstruction of events
suspenseful and convincing. Abby, the narrator, now 30, married,
settled in New York State, and pregnant with her first child, is
haunted by the memory of her younger brother's baffling
disappearance from their hometown of Horton, Wisconsin, one summer
afternoon in 1984, 12 years before; he was never seen again. At an
emotional turning point, Abby finds herself reliving Sam's slow
deterioration from the sweet, imaginative, charming best buddy of
her grade-school years to the defiant, self-destructive dropout who
vanished on the heels of a series of town robberies. She traces his
troubles primarily to her father's paranoid, unrelenting ridicule
of Sam's "sissified" interests - and his jealousy of the boy's
attachment to Abby. As familiar as these family dynamics are, the
author superbly dramatizes scenes of the father's sarcastic
nastiness and the kids' humiliation. The result is chilling and
memorable - making the story's mild, unconvincing later
developments all the more disappointing. After Sam's disappearance,
Abby's father goes berserk and leaves the family; her mother
becomes an increasingly devout Catholic; and Abby loses both her
religious faith and her interest in a career as a musician. When,
at the end, Sam's body is discovered buried in a field near the old
family home, answers to all remaining mysteries (how did he die?
when and why?) get swallowed up in a sentimental subplot concerning
whether or not Abby will baptize the new baby. A gifted writer who
needs to pace herself. (Kirkus Reviews)
When Abigail Schiller's younger brother Sam disappears, unable to
conform to his father's ideals of masculinity, Abby is devastated.
Ten years later, and pregnant with her first child, Abby realises
she must come to terms with her family's past and unearths a
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