Picks and Pans Review: That Night

updated 06/01/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/01/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Alice McDermott

This strong, eloquent novel takes place "in the earlier days of shopping malls, when they still attempted to resemble cluttered Main Streets, not sealed airplane hangars and Disney World Bazaars." The neighborhood is made up of modest, single-family homes, each with children. One of those children recalls a night when a boy named Rick came to see his girlfriend, Sheryl, was told that she was gone and screamed in anguish. Later he returned, drunk, with drunken friends, and the fathers in the neighborhood had a pitched battle with the young "hoods." That is about all that happened on the night of the title, but the narrator circles around and around the event. We learn about Sheryl, Rick and their families and what becomes of them. And as the narrator tries to make sense of it, tries to understand love and pain and growing up, we get a sudden, piercing glimpse at the lives many of us lead. McDermott, author of a much-praised novel, The Bigamist's Daughter, writes clean, simple prose that serves her story beautifully. This novel is as carefully constructed as a poem, giving off a lustrous glow, and is poignant in the telling. (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $14.95)

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