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Thomas McGuane: Nobody’s Angel
We are back in familiar McGuane territory with a man returning home. But we know it is not going to be pretty, as this is McGuane and he has the very pointed epigraph from Malcolm Lowry I love hell. I can’t wait to get back. Hell, in this case, is Deadrock, Montana (presumably based on Livingston, where McGuane lives) and the returnee to hell is Patrick Fitzpatrick. Patrick had been an army captain in Germany and had dreamed of returning home to the family ranch. But exactly why he decided to do it now is not clear, though McGuane heroes are given to impulsive acts. His sister, Mary, is mentally ill and wants to burn the house down. She is also a prostitute and pregnant. His father, who had been a Boeing test pilot, has died in a plane crash. His mother has remarried and moved away. Apart from Mary, all of the family left in Montana is his grandfather, who is a bitter man and longs for the good old days. None of them fits in and Patrick soon becomes aware of this.
Patrick starts a relationship with Claire Burnett, when her husband, Tio, had asked Patrick to look after her. Claire is an outsider, from Oklahoma. The relationship is doomed, particularly as Claire feels guilty about Tio. Patrick has limited ambitions – I wish it could be like in books… I wish it could be a big simp love story. But Claire retorts I don’t want to be in a big simp love story. In short, it doesn’t work and Patrick goes back to the army, back to drinking and has an affair with an old girlfriend, Marion, who exists only in his mind. While it might not be as witty as some of his earlier works, it still deals with some of the same themes – failed father-son relationships, the idea of returning home not necessarily being the path to salvation and the sense that, ultimately, we are all alone and, as always, McGuane tells his tale well.
First published 1981 by Random House