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Send Meby Patrick Ryan
Synopses & Reviews
Patrick Ryan’s first work of fiction is written with such authority, grace, and wisdom, it might be the capstone of a distinguished literary career.
In the Florida of NASA launches, ranch houses, and sudden hurricanes, Teresa Kerrigan, ungrounded by two divorces, tries to hold her life together. But her ex-husbands linger in the background while her four children spin away to their own separate futures, each carrying the baggage of a complex family history. Matt serves as caretaker to the ailing father who abandoned him as a child, while his wild teenage sister, Karen, hides herself in marriage to a born-again salesman. Joe, a perpetual outsider, struggles with a private sibling rivalry that nearly derails him. And then there’s the youngest, Frankie, an endearing, eccentric sci-fi freak who’s been searching since childhood for intelligent life in the universe–and finds it.
Written with wry affection, and with compassion for every character in its pages, Send Me is a wholly original, haunting evocation of family love, loss, and, ultimately, forgiveness.
"Ryan's debut novel, suffused with an earnestness that might seem cloying were it not for his ease and control, follows Teresa Kerrigan as she struggles to raise four children, two from each of her two failed marriages. The novel covers 30 years from the mid-1960s. By the '70s, the family is in northeast Florida, with NASA launches nearby, and youngest son Frankie can't shake his boyhood obsession with spaceships and science fiction. As an adolescent Frankie happily embraces his belief that he is gay, dreaming wistfully of Luke Skywalker. Next oldest Joe, who narrates some chapters, has a more painful time sorting through his own messy sexuality, while the eldest, Matt, leaves the household at 18 to care for his sick father, and Karen, a high school dropout, marries at 21 and withdraws emotionally from her mother — as each child does in his or her own way. Ryan gets the dreariness and tumult of the Kerrigan lives right, presenting Teresa as flawed but sympathetic, and her brood as reactive in familiar but nicely specified ways. All are compassionately drawn through Joe's articulate bewilderment, particularly the sensitive and surprising Frankie, who comes to dominate Joe's own self-exploration. When AIDS eventually figures into the plot, Ryan maintains this impressive debut's nuance and sweetness to the end." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The first chapter of Patrick Ryan's debut novel, 'Send Me,' is a little like a David Lynch movie — creepy, off-putting and trying to be cool. Frankie, a wayward 29-year-old, drives his broken-down Volkswagen through rural Alabama to visit an outsider artist who, like Frankie, paints vivid scenes of what he sees in his disturbed head. They both believe that aliens are preparing to land on Earth and... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) 'correct' things. It's a disconcerting beginning to a disjointed but poignant book about a quintessentially dysfunctional American family. Over successive chapters that jump forward and back over four decades, the saga unfolds. Teresa Kerrigan, Frankie's mother, has four children from two failed marriages. They live on a Florida island close to the spot where NASA shoots rockets into space. The children must cope with their bitter, exhausted mother, with their failed, absent fathers, with their own internal struggles and with one another. The eldest, Matt, flees Florida when he reaches age 18 to reunite with his long-lost dad in Utica, N.Y. There he finds a broken man headed down a path of steady deterioration. Second child Karen is a rebel without a cause, getting mixed up first with a high school delinquent who winds up in jail. A decade later, unpredictably, she marries an ultra-religious traditionalist who looks the other way when she steps out to pursue her old ways. For third child Joe, the toughest challenge is being a big brother to Frankie. Ryan is at his best — funny but full of pathos — when he describes Joe's bemused frustration at having such a weird but endearing younger sibling: 'After coming out at fourteen (before I even realized I was in the closet), he declared himself a gay alien at fifteen, and by the time he turned sixteen he was human again (and still gay), claiming his previous incarnation hadn't been him but a "proxy clone" marking his place while he explored the galaxy. He wore his clothes backward every third Wednesday throughout his sophomore year because he claimed it helped reset his gravity. He took Grant Jenkins, the drum major, to his junior prom and slow-danced to "I Want to Know What Love Is." His senior science fair project was a thoroughly illustrated plan to colonize — exclusively with homosexuals and macaws — an as-yet-undiscovered planet called Gaystar. And still, somehow, he managed to make it out of high school without once getting beaten up.' Joe has nothing like Frankie's confidence. Still half-closeted in college, he follows Frankie to Florida State, where Joe stumbles through furtive attempts to join Frankie's world. But, overshadowed by his little brother's flamboyance, he just can't seem to shake his inhibitions. In the last chapter, the novel circles back to Frankie in 2006. Riddled with AIDS and visions of the imminent arrival of alien spacecraft, he finally returns to Teresa. Ryan eloquently captures a mother's conflicted, irrational hopes for a disturbed child. Despite all reason, Teresa wants to believe that her son's visions are signs of clairvoyance. She's desperate for him to transform, even if only temporarily, into a sane person. But Frankie keeps saying the aliens will come and correct things. As Teresa tries to mother her ill son, 'she wants to ask him to put away all of his quirks for five minutes and explain to her what he thinks needs "corrected."' In the end, it's not clear which character Ryan most wants his readers to identify with and what, ultimately, he's trying to say. Perhaps it's simply that families are complicated, that parents try but often fail, that each family inevitably inflicts particular pathologies and cruelties. What Ryan does exceedingly well is construct chapters that stand alone, each with its own narrative arc and fully explored characters. Perhaps the book would have worked better if Ryan had chosen to write it as a series of short stories. The novel doesn't resolve much about its characters' struggles or even their relationships with one another. But in the last chapter, Teresa and Frankie find a kind of peace together. That chapter would have made a fine short story." Reviewed by Susan Adams, an editor at Forbes magazine, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"One of the joys for readers from Florida will be to see their world deftly reflected....By revealing his characters in such intimate detail, Ryan makes these deeply flawed people appealingly human." Orlando Sentinel
"Set largely on Florida's Merritt Island in the shadow of the space program, this book is about going far out from home....If Ryan's dysfunctional family has been invented, rather than reported on or confessed, he has promise." Kirkus Reviews
"Ryan does not attempt to tie up loose ends or heal all of the resentments that have built up. But he does paint a powerful picture of dysfunction intertwined with humor, love, and hope. Teens will find much to relate to and may even walk away with a deeper appreciation of the quirkiness of their own families." School Library Journal
This stunning fiction debut distills 40 years in the life of one American family into a kaleidoscopic portrait of heartbreaking intimacy written with rare literary grace.
About the Author
Patrick Ryan was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Florida. His work has appeared in the Yale Review, the Iowa Review, One Story, and other journals. He lives in New York City.
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