This work is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Willis, our "hero", decides to opt out for 2 months at his country, holiday home; away from his wife, kids and job. Ostensibly to catch up with maintenance and repairs, but really to take a mid life break to read , play his guitars, think and be alone. It is apparent from the start that all is not well in his marriage or professional life as he and his wife Jean bicker constantly from the moment they arrive at Preston Falls. Early on we also notice that their prepubescent daughter and her young brother lack acceptable discipline and are slipping towards the uncontrollable. After an unhappy leave taking and happily alone he becomes hyper as fueled by booze and then drugs Willis tackles with disastrous results the home improvements. Having created a building shambles, he then catches up with his family to try for a truce , but ends up in jail. After support from his long suffering wife Jean he returns on his own to Preston Falls, becomes part of a substance abusing bunch of amateur rock musicians, is trapped into drug transporting cocaine and watches his life spiral downwards. Will he get a grip on his life before it is too late and how will his wife manage to deal with the financial and emotional pressures ,on top of her own career, on her own. It would be wrong to reveal more of the story which is not strong on plot , but fascinating none the less and held me page after page.
In David Gates we have a fine observer of life and an outstanding writer of sharp, witty, believable dialogue. This is a serious piece of contemporary writing putting Gates on a par with Kent Haruf, Tim Gatereaux and Richard Russo.
Ninety five percent of this book is unquestionable 5 star, but due to a slightly unsatisfying ending I have docked a star, but will certainly read more by David Gates.