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Exley    by Brock Clarke order for
by Brock Clarke
Order:  USA  Can
Algonquin, 2010 (2010)
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* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Brock Clarke follows up his highly regarded An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England with this new novel.

Part literary satire, part mystery, this story uses Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes as its inspiration. In this exploration of what is real and what is imaginary, Clarke's key character is a nine year old youth named Miller who blames himself for his father's disappearance. His father may or may not have joined the army and ended up in Iraq.

Miller La Ray thinks he has located his comatose dad in a VA hospital. Since his parent is a devotee of Frederick Exley, the boy is convinced that if he can find the author and bring him to the hospital, he may be able to reverse his father's condition.

Unfortunately, the semi famous writer is dead, so the task is all but impossible. Concerned by her son's fixation on a dead author, Miller's mother sends him to a therapist. Alas, Dr. Pahnee has a few issues of his own and his new patient brings them to the forefront.

Featuring alternating voices of a confused young boy and an equally unstable therapist, this unusual novel has, at its center, a boy's obsession and the struggle to separate true reality versus perceived reality.

If you ever have read Exley's fictional memoir you immediately see the connection; if not, don't worry. Once into Clarke's novel you'll begin to see how these two books are related.

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