Charming Billy

Author:Alice McDermott
Publisher:Farrar Straus & Giroux

Any sentence troubled in its telling is telling indeed, and Alice McDermott's National Book Award winner Charming Billy is no exception. In the first few pages of this realistic novel portrayed in unadorned language, one stumbles into the syntactic nettles of the following sentence: “He had, at some point, ripped apart, plowed through, as alcoholics tend to do, the great, deep, tightly woven fabric of affection that was some part of the emotional life, the life of love, of everyone in the room.” McDermott's language calls attention to itself, as this forms the pivotal theme of this tersely moving, personal novel: Irish-American family and friends patch together a tight-knit quilt of memories and emotions regarding their dearly departed Billy, a charmer and a drunk.