Gabriel McCloud, 18, has just been killed by driving his truck into a tree while intoxicated. The small town goes into shock. The chapters of the novel are narrated successively by key people in Gabriel's life: his girlfriend; a teacher who saw his potential and gave him extra chances he needed; his embittered and violent father; his two brothers, an uncle who has been estranged from the family for years; the son of the local mortician; a buddy; the sheriff. Each of them goes through a particular kind of shock, grief, and reflection following the loss.

Jennie, Gabriel's girlfriend, pregnant with Gabriel's baby, decides to take herself to the beach and commit suicide. She sits for some time on a rock that will soon be buried by the rising tide, but is eventually spotted and rescued by a man she has feared and despised: Gabriel's father. The various voices that give us vantage points on Gabriel's difficult life and violent death testify also to how important even the life of a somewhat wayward, underachieving, confused teenager can be to a community of people who recognize him, some belatedly, as a gift.


The writer renders the various voices and points of view convincingly and compellingly. The reader gets a multi-faceted reflection on grief, on the ripple effects of loss within families and communities, and on the way in which any death brings those near it to terms with their own lives. It's a vigorous, lively book, dark in many ways, but hopeful particularly in the portrait of the teacher who has understood Gabriel's life and insists on honoring him in death, and in the final, tentative moment of reconciliation and consent to life for Jennie and Gabriel's deeply flawed father. A rich book for discussion of loss and of dysfunctional families.



Place Published

New York



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