Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review of Home Invasion by Patti Abbott (Snubnose Press, 2013)

1961 and Billie and Kay are living in Philadelphia.  Kay has recently re-married and is obsessed with pleasing her new husband, her young teenage daughter unsure of her place in the relationship and world. A few years later and Billie has tracked down her real father to a born-again church in Detroit, but he’s a disappointment and the trip ends badly.  At seventeen she’s married to Dennis, a con-artist who’s always on the lookout for a quick buck.  By 1977, Billie and Dennis have two kids, Greg and Charlie, who when not fending for themselves are trying to marshal their drunken mother and scheming father as they move about trying to stay one step ahead of the police and their father’s cons.  Billie has maintained the family tradition of boozing and scraping by, the question is whether her sons will follow suit?

Patti Abbott has a well deserved reputation for writing thoughtful short stories about ordinary people who find themselves living on the edge or caught up in criminal activities.  Home Invasion is her first novel and parses out her skill as a short story writer into a longer narrative that follows the trials and tribulations of different generations of a dysfunctional family of grifters over nearly half a century.  Each chapter is set in a different year at a key inflection point in a family history that involves a whole tapestry of selfishness, misfortune, poor decisions and various crimes -- fraud, rape, cons, neglect, robbery, kidnap, murder -- and prison sentences.  These episodes are told through evocative prose and a narrative that perfectly captures the unfolding scenes, the tenuous web of social relations, complex swirl of emotions, and the foreboding that things will never quite work out as desired.  Although cast as a crime novel and published by a press specialising in noir and hardboiled stories, Home Invasion is more of a social commentary about a family struggling on the edge of the underclass, unable or unwilling to find upward mobility into respectability; a dark, unsettling, sympathetic and thoughtful tale that never quite extinguishes hope.  Whilst not the cheeriest of reads, I thought it was wonderful.


4 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - Isn't Patti talented? I'm so glad you liked this as much as you did.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And here it is! My favorite Christmas present!

David Cranmer said...

Patti Abbott always delivers.

TracyK said...

Glad you liked this so much. I like the combination of crime fiction and social commentary. I have purchased the book and look forward to reading it.