Friday, June 13, 2003

Just out, being compared to Richard Russo and John Irving, so I'm putting it on my to-be-read pile...
Long for This World by Michael Byers
From Publishers Weekly
Dr. Henry Moss, the protagonist of Byers's compassionate, richly detailed debut novel (after an acclaimed short story collection, The Coast of Good Intentions), is a gentle, committed physician who studies a rare syndrome that causes rapid aging and premature death in children. While treating two sons from the same family who are both stricken with the syndrome, Moss discovers the holy grail of the medical profession, a blood mutation that has the potential to arrest the human aging process. On the one hand, the use of his discovery might tangle him in severe ethical dilemmas, and perhaps even cost Moss his license. On the other hand, he could make a lot of money. Byers cleverly sets his tale in late-1990s Seattle, at the height of the dot-com craze; the good doctor, like most everyone around him, is far from oblivious to the immense financial reward his discovery might bring him. With infinite tiny, prosaic and precise brush strokes, Byers depicts not only this riveting dilemma but also Moss's relationship with his family: his wry, critical Austrian wife, Ilse, his clownish, good-hearted 14-year-old son, Darren, and his 17-year-old daughter, Sandra, a talented basketball player who falls in love with a black player on a boys' team. These characterizations are so vivid and convincing that they are nearly hyper-real, as if Byers had set his protagonists under a microscope. Herein lies the book's great strength: while lesser writers would probably allow the compelling plot to dominate the narrative, Byers takes equal time to deliver a sympathetic but unflinching portrait of the American middle class and its discontents, brilliantly capturing the texture of late-20th-century life and the innate decency and fallibility of human beings trying to cope with its challenges.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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