Synopses & Reviews
Belly O'Leary? Tough guy, lives hard. Holds his liquor well. Won't back down from a fight. Three grown daughters, one ex-wife, a mistress. Returning home to Saratoga Springs after four years away.
But what the hell happened to his town? The bar he used to own is gone. Wal-Mart and Starbucks stand in the place of familiar landmarks. His daughters treat him like an afterthought. No one laughs at his jokes. No one remembers his bar.
Belly is the story of a man shocked by change into a last shot at life. When the old friends, the old haunts, and the old ways look like they could cost him what is left of his life, Belly is forced to learn, small step by small step, to live in a new way. Holding on to an unshakable core of pride even as he confronts the secrets that have shaped his life until now, Belly makes an unlikely but irresistible hero.
Written with an astonishing understanding of the seedier ways of men, Belly is a brilliant and brilliantly funny novel about the masculine path, its joys and pitfalls, and the chance for reconciliation and redemption in even the hardest-lived life.
"What if a man's narcissism were so complete that it defied time, thwarted prison and thrived on a diet of parenting crimes and other sins? Such is the story of William O'Leary, aka Belly, the antihero of Davis's well-written but psychologically stifling debut. Davis has a lovely touch with homesickness and dark humor, one that humanizes 59-year-old Belly, convicted on an illegal gambling charge, as he returns to the scene of his original problems in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. His wistful memories of his hometown before it embraced major retail make his violence all the more terrible, as Belly unleashes his particular brand of self-rationalization and evil on the family that is, inexplicably, waiting around for him. While his daughters worry over him, wait on him and bend to his will, their increasingly dumbfounded sons and lovers watch as Belly stubbornly performs a cycle of drunkenness, abuse of women and demi-reflection. While some past (and new) crimes are worse than others, it's not like Belly changes. And that's the problem: Davis never fully reveals the demons that drive Belly to destroy. Instead, his moments of revelation are self-absorbed and fleeting, and they don't stick until the end, when they come across as too pat. Agent, Amy Williams. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A fine entertainment, beautifully wrought." New York Post
"Selin Davis does a formidable job with most characterizations. In addition to the loutish Belly, supporting roles are uniquely drawn, and nearly every character's personal appearance and traits are smoothly and sufficiently unveiled so that each remains vivid, scene after scene." San Francisco Chronicle
"Comically poignant and well paced, Davis' look at 'family values' under stress seems good movie material." Booklist
"This debut effort by Lisa Selin Davis is the wonderfully crafted tale of a man who refuses to change with the times....Highly recommended." Bookloons
"A darkly funny book about reentry into the 'real' world." Life Magazine
"Lisa Selin Davis has crafted a gritty, darkly comic, and sympathetic portrait of people left behind by changing economic times. Belly is more than a good first novel. It's a good novel, period." Neal Pollack, author of Never Mind the Pollacks
"Lisa Selin Davis is an amazing writer. Sentence for sentence she's exactly the kind of writer I try to be, one who values the honesty and the life inherent in language itself, and through it creates a brand new world." Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish
Belly marks the arrival of a talented young writer whose assured debut has the perfect blend of humor and poignancy. Lisa Selin Davis gives us an engaging story of fatherhood, daughters, and family ties that will undoubtedly have wide appeal.
About the Author
Lisa Selin Davis is a freelance journalist and a visiting professor of creative writing at Pratt College of Art in Brooklyn. This is her first novel.