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Strange but True
"Searle's tale has a deliciously campy feel....Branches screech and blackbirds hover over Philip, Melissa, and Charlene as things go from bad to worse. Besides rage and sorrow, Searles tells us, these characters are about to experience real danger. This heavy darkness is one of the many reasons to read this wonderfully entertaining novel at the beach." Anna Godberson, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
After a mysterious fall from his New York City apartment, Philip Chase has moved back home with his mother, Charlene, a bitter woman who has never fully accepted the death of her younger son, Ronnie, five years earlier. Numb from watching too much television, rereading a tragic biography, and trading snipes with his mother, Philip is in stasis.
But everything changes late one windy February night when Ronnie's high school girlfriend shows up on their doorstep. A sad young woman who still bears the scars of the accident that took Ronnie's life on the night of their prom, Melissa has unexpectedly found hope. She is nine months pregnant. And the father, she claims, is Ronnie.
So begins this startling tale, which moves from one breathless surprise to another as Philip and his mother confront not only Melissa's past but their own. Their desperate search for answers takes them on a poignant and emotional journey, ultimately placing them in the path of murder and revenge.
At once a moving story of redemption and a heart-stopping work of suspense, Strange but True confirms John Searles's place among the most gifted voices of his generation. Beautifully written and charged with a sublime wit, the novel brings to vibrant life a cast of characters that no reader will forget.
"The world Searles (Boy Still Missing) presents in his second novel is exquisitely odd yet instantly recognizable, as strange but true as the hidden life of one's next-door neighbor. The novel moves in unexpected directions throughout, most notably morphing from a family drama into a kind of mystery/thriller, but its steady gravitational pull — readers should expect to stay up late for this one — testifies to the solidity of its bedrock impressions, cast by an author with extraordinary powers of observation. Searles opens on the night that Melissa Moody, girlfriend to Ronnie Chase, who died five years earlier in a car crash after their high school prom, visits the Chases to tell Ronnie's brother, Philip, and his cantankerous mother that she's pregnant — with, she's sure, Ronnie's child. That revelation spins both Philip and his mother into some sleuthing, of Melissa's situation — could she somehow have saved Ronnie's sperm? — and into their own hearts, ravaged by Ronnie's death and its bitter aftermath, which includes Philip's recent unexplained return to his hometown of Radnor, Pa., from Manhattan. The story shuttles among various point of views and between past and present as Searles peels back layers of concealment to reveal the truths behind the turns in various people's fates, and behind Melissa's claim. Yet while readers will enjoy traveling to the heart of the mystery, what they'll cherish most in this accomplished novel are its startling real characters, with even the minor players — an ambitious Polish librarian; a lonely, aging gay pet owner — all perfectly crafted. Searle's novel should find a wide and grateful readership. (July 20)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"John Searles' novel illuminates the intricate dynamics of families with humor, heart, and truth." Augusten Burroughs
"Funny, mysterious and poignant....John Searles has created a novel to reread and treasure." Adriana Trigiani, author of Lucia, Lucia
About the Author
John Searles is the Deputy Editor of Cosmopolitan where he oversees all book coverage for the magazine. His essays, articles and reviews have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times and other national magazines and newspapers. He lives in New York City.
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