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A Family in Pieces,
This review is from: Send Me (Paperback)
Patrick Ryan has made some bold stylistic choices in composing his first published book and to great effect. It's not a novel, but it is composed of multiple stories which all involve members of the same family. Most focus on a single character. Only three show the entire family together. So you come to know this family very intimately both as individuals and as a group which is something most traditional novels are unable to do when trying to balance diverse members of a single family. Send Me spans from the mid-60s to the near future, but each self-contained story is not arranged chronologically. Instead you hopscotch through time with this family joining them at different points in their lives which are often sadly disconnected from one another. This has the effect of juxtaposing the emotional peaks and valleys of their lives to provide greater insight into each of the characters than if you were to read about their lives from start to finish.
Here we have the wronged mother, the straying father, the rebellious daughter, the precocious boy, and the son with AIDS. All are familiar and recognizable, but none fall into stereotypes. Their life stories are fresh, compelling and unmistakeably their own. Ryan's great ability as a writer is to show real sympathy and respect for each of his complex characters. Some make very questionable choices, but the writer shows through crucial events in their lives how they came to make these decisions. These stories show that the real tragedy is not what they do, but what they fail to do. It's in their vulnerability, their tendency to neglect the family that they should try to form a tighter bond with, that their stories acquire a universal meaning. The way in which the writer chooses to tell only fragments of their stories in a carefully structured form yields many surprises making Send Me an utterly compulsive read. This eloquent, moving, fantastic puzzle of a book is the debut of a brilliant writer.