Patrick Ryan's first work of fiction is written with such authority, grace, and wisdom, it might be the capstone of a distinguished literary career. In the Florida of NASA launches, ranch houses, and sudden hurricanes, Teresa Kerrigan, ungrounded by two divorces, tries to hold her life together. But her ex-husbands linger in the background while her four children spin away to their own separate futures, each carrying the baggage of a complex family history. Matt serves as caretaker to the ailing father who abandoned him as a child, while his wild teenage sister, Karen, hides herself in marriage to a born-again salesman. Joe, a perpetual outsider, struggles with a private sibling rivalry that nearly derails him. And then there's the youngest, Frankie, an endearing, eccentric sci-fi freak who's been searching since childhood for intelligent life in the universe-and finds it. Written with wry affection, and with compassion for every character in its pages, Send Me is a wholly original, haunting evocation of family love, loss, and, ultimately, forgiveness.
Ryan's debut novel, suffused with an earnestness that might seem cloying were it not for his ease and control, follows Teresa Kerrigan as she struggles to raise four children, two from each of her two failed marriages. The novel covers 30 years from the mid-1960s. By the '70s, the family is in northeast Florida, with NASA launches nearby, and youngest son Frankie can't shake his boyhood obsession with spaceships and science fiction. As an adolescent Frankie happily embraces his belief that he is gay, dreaming wistfully of Luke Skywalker. Next oldest Joe, who narrates some chapters, has a more painful time sorting through his own messy sexuality, while the eldest, Matt, leaves the household at 18 to care for his sick father, and Karen, a high school dropout, marries at 21 and withdraws emotionally from her mother-as each child does in his or her own way. Ryan gets the dreariness and tumult of the Kerrigan lives right, presenting Teresa as flawed but sympathetic, and her brood as reactive in familiar but nicely specified ways. All are compassionately drawn through Joe's articulate bewilderment, particularly the sensitive and surprising Frankie, who comes to dominate Joe's own self-exploration. When AIDS eventually figures into the plot, Ryan maintains this impressive debut's nuance and sweetness to the end. (Feb. 7) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
The Dial Press
January 30, 2006
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Send Me by Patrick Ryan
Somewhere between Rome and Dixie, he fell asleep behind the wheel. This had happened to his father once, long before Frankie was born: he'd drifted off just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, and when he'd opened his eyes, his car was somersaulting out of a ditch and across a field, the view through the broken windshield a rapid slide show of sky, grass, sky, grass, sky, grass. One of the doors came off. The backseat was torn loose and expelled. The bumpers, the hubcaps, the headlight rings, the trunk lid, and the jack shot out like shrapnel from a grenade. When the car finally came to rest on its wheels over fifty yards from the highway, it was so mangled that the state trooper who arrived on the scene was unable to make a visual identification of the vehicle's year, make, or model. These details were learned from the young man sitting behind the wheel, dazed and disoriented, but with nothing more than a bruised elbow and a superficial cut on his forehead. "It's a miracle of God," the trooper had said, but Frankie's mother, deserted by two husbands by the time she told him the story, had footnoted the remark: "More like dumb luck."
Frankie's luck--dumb or otherwise--held him steady as he dozed. When his head snapped upright and his mind pulled out of what had seemed like a long stretch of darkness, he found an early afternoon intensely radiant with greens and blues. He was on a road in the Conecuh National Forest of Alabama, both hands on the wheel, and he was centered perfectly in his lane.
The road turned into a bridge, and the Volkswagen skimmed a level path across the river, like a hovercraft. Then the bridge turned back into a road. The trees began to thin out. He saw a sign for Damascus, then another, smaller sign made of two flat wooden triangles nailed to a post. The triangles were painted white and bore words so small that Frankie had to come to a full stop and lean into the windshield to read them.