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.)
"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.
Reading Group Guide
In this imaginative, beautifully wrought debut, Patrick Ryan brings to life an array of mesmerizing characters; each one carries the emotional baggage of a family history woven with the surreal and the sublime. With wry humor and unflinching candor, Send Me
transports us to the Florida of NASA launches, ranch houses, and sudden hurricanes, as well as quirky pockets of Alabama and upstate New York. Cascading within five decades, from 2006 back to the 1960s, Ryan's rich narratives revolve around the quest for hope, authenticity, and love in all forms. These are the stories of Teresa Kerrigan, her ex-husbands, and her four children: Matt, who serves as caretaker to the ailing father who abandoned him as a child; his wild sister, Karen, who hides herself in marriage to a born-again salesman; Joe, a perpetual outsider struggling with intense sibling rivalry; and Frankie, an endearing, eccentric sci-fi freak. United by a turbulent past and an even more startling future, they spin dazzling, often edgy episodes in this wholly original portrait of yearning.
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Patrick Ryan's Send Me. We hope they will enrich your experience of this haunting novel.
1. What does the title story, "Send Me," tell us about Frankie? In what way does the Reverend's art set the tone for tales of Frankie's family?
2. How does the Reverend define "sent"? How does the concept of being sent become a thread connecting all the works in this novel?
3. In 1965 Teresa tries to write to Dermot's family. What assessments of her life does she make while writing this letter? How does her perception of the world evolve after that early scene?
4. "So Much for Artemis" gives us images of Frankie as a child. How would you characterize the way he interacts with Jennifer in these scenes? How would you have responded to Roy Kerrigan if you had been Jennifer's mother?
5. What are the defining moments of Joe's adolescence? Genetics aside, who qualifies as family in his life?
6. Do Karen's relationships mirror her mother's experiences with men, or do they shatter a tradition?
7. What does Matt discover about being a Ragazzino? Does life in Utica give him more power and more sense of self, or does it reduce him to roles that are not well suited to him?
8. "Woman in a Fan Chair" features the family's attempt to flee a hurricane. How would each one of them recall their time at the motel? Do any of the characters experience a genuinely safe harbor in their lives?
9. What is the source of Joe's competitive attitude toward Frankie? Is it limited to the realms of academics and sex? Does one of them ultimately win?
10. What is the effect of the book's NASA backdrop? In what way is the notion of aliens, space travel, and heroism on the part of astronauts an appropriate theme for these characters?
11. Discuss the role of Catholicism in the novel. What does religion signify to Teresa? What irony exists in the fact that all of her children are named after saints?
12. Send Me conveys themes of estrangement and abandonment. Are Teresa and Frankie the only ones to experience reunion?
13. "There's Nothing Wrong with Gus" and "Love at the Dog Fight" give us parting glimpses of Roy. What were his motivations throughout the book? How do the Slip 'N Slide and his father's elderly dog illustrate Roy's essential frustrations in life?
14. How did you react to Frankie's portrait of his mother? How does it compare to your initial impressions of her?
15. If Frankie's Visitors did descend to Earth, what corrections would they make in his life and throughout the globe?
16. Discuss the structure of Send Me. Would you categorize it as a novel in stories or a story collection, or should it be left to defy categorization altogether? What is the effect of the alternating narration and the shifting timeline? In what way did these innovations enhance the portrayal of a family?