Mary McGarry Morris dazzled us with her hard-hitting Songs in OrdinaryTime and Fiona Range, and now she dishes up another feast for the reader.In A Hole in the Universe, she delivers an uncompromising and forcefulstory, full of wonderfully challenging characters, and remarkablyinteresting and heart rendering situations. The narrative centers on thecharacter of Gordon Loomis who has just spent twenty-five years in prisonfor murder. He returns to his neighborhood as a changed man, but he alsosees a neighborhood that has suffered the effects of urban blight wheredrug dealers now proliferate and property remains uncared for. With thehelp of his brother, Dennis, a successful oral surgeon, Gordon tries todesperately remake himself in a community that fears him and sees him as acriminal.
Gordon's neighborhood is rundown but vitality was everywhere - women areon their front steps day or night, children play on the sidewalks, andmusic blasts from idle cars. Life might be a struggle, "but energy chargesthe air, blind and unstoppable." Yet Gordon finds a world gone awry, theplanet tipped. "Instead of meteors, airplane bolts, and metal chunks fallfrom the sky." Gordon hates talking about himself: the misery of it, theemptiness, the dead echo behind every word like footsteps through anendless tunnel. Twenty-five years earlier, evil had invaded his aimless,blundering life, and he doesn't know how he can live with the consequencesof what he has done.
The strength of this novel is the wonderfullythree-dimensional characters. Feaster and Polie, the two local drugdealers, who recruit the young Jada - who hungers for love just as shehungers constantly for food. And then there's Delores, earthy, solicitousand who insinuates herself into Gordon's life and who tries to do the bestby him and feeds off his private needs and loneliness. When Gordondiscovers that his brother, Dennis is having an affair with a localrealtor, he feels obliged to tell his wife, Lisa, because he just can'tspend his whole life turning his back, not seeing and never doing thehonorable thing. Gordon is someone who needs the "anonymity of blankspaces" yet he has not realized how strange freedom would be, how alien hewould feel.
How we remake our lives and what we do with the life we are given is atthe thematic core of A Hole in the Universe. And some readers may findMorris's view of the world unintentionally bleak, as she sees us as nomore than "inconsequential flees jumping through our preordained hoops ina meaningless cosmos, hopeless, helpless, and blameless." Morris alsodelves into the psyche of the criminal and postulates that just ascriminals are locked up to protect society, so are the imprisoned safefrom society's expectations and nuances. Activities such as paying bills,entering relationships, and holding down a job are probably unfathomablelanguage for some men. In Gordon Loomis, Morris gives us a stalwart,sturdy and robust character that perseveres and tries to meet thechallenges of life on the "outside." Mike Leonard April 04