A son is tasked with an impossible decision in this poignant, astutely observed portrait of a family in crisis from the author of The Ice Storm
While visiting his mother, Billie, who suffers from a degenerative neurological disease that has left her paralyzed and unable to speak, Dexter “Hex” Raitliffe learns that his stepfather, Billie’s husband and caretaker, has left her. Alone and incapable of living on her own, Billie makes an unfathomable request of Hex: to assist her in committing suicide. Perpetually indecisive, paralyzed by self-doubt, and hindered by an unshakable stutter, Hex sets out to confront his stepfather, only to find himself facing off against his own struggles—with intimacy and alcoholism—along the way.
Back in the suburbs of his youth, Hex experiences the lull of nostalgia as well as the sting of painful memories like his father’s death as he tries to reconcile his mother’s fate and his own wavering identity. Author Rick Moody evokes this singular setting with stunning clarity. Profoundly tragic yet punctuated by moments of hilarity, Purple America is a searing gaze into one family’s fragile, chaotic heart.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Rick Moody including rare images from the author’s personal collection.
Ambitious, stylistically dazzling and heartfelt, this fourth novel from a Pushcart Prize winner (Garden State) chronicles the meltdown in a single evening of a well-to-do Connecticut family. Dexter "Hex" Raitliffe--middle-aged, stuttering, alcoholic--returns home to care for his ailing mother, Billie. Suffering from a degenerative disease, Billie has lost her mobility, her speech--and her hope. So exhausted is her second husband, Lou (manager at a crumbling nuclear power plant beset with problems of its own), that he reluctantly abandons her. Their lives come to crisis poignantly and violently in one night; Moody's dense prose evokes their "dance of feelings" in their disparate voices. Tenderness and guilt war in Lou's mind even as we understand Hex's conviction that his stepfather, who callously left his farewell to his wife typed out on her voice synthesizer, is monstrous and selfish. Hex's own struggles against self-abasement and denial and Billie's rage at her illness are also powerfully rendered in urgent, intense stream-of-consciousness. The novel catalogues the detritus that fills their thoughts; fragments of the technical jargon of nuclear power and of neurological medicine; the features on the face of coastal Connecticut; Billie's obsession with lavender. That linguistic play is dazzling--so much so that it sometimes overshadows the drama it is meant to serve (as in an episode in which Billie finds herself neglected at the restaurant where she and Hex were to dine). It serves less ably the various secondary characters. But the specificity and nuance of the voices of Hex, Billie and Lou drive the story towards a climax that is grotesque, inexorable and deeply sad. $75,000 ad/promo; author tour; U.K. and translations rights: Melanie Jackson Agency. FYI: A film based on Moody's second novel, The Ice Storm, starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, opens this spring.