Picks and Pans Review: Fireworks

updated 05/29/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/29/2006 01:00AM

by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop

REVIEWED BY VICK BOUGHTON

FICTION

Writer Hollis Clayton is a depressed 38-year-old stuck between early childhood and midlife crisis. When he ventures out of his New England cottage, he navigates a world comprising only his porch, his yard, his neighbors' yard (including their trampoline), a local bar and a nearby burrito joint. Career-wise, he's also in a rut—instead of working on his short stories, he hides from his editor. Meanwhile, his wife has left him (his girlfriend, too), and he is still mourning his 4-year-old son, hit by a car and killed two years earlier when Hollis left the boy outside alone for a few minutes. In short, Hollis is a mess, but he's too acutely self-aware to be pathetic. He knows how to fix things, and once he decides he's ready, he begins to pick himself up from the ruins. So beautifully realized is this poignant, funny hero, you'd never suspect he inhabits a first novel, but Fireworks is indeed the hugely gifted Winthrop's debut. Keep an eye on her.
[3.5 stars]

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