The primary metaphor of Barry Hannah’s autobiographical novel--a boomerang--is appropriate, for Hannah tosses out vignettes about himself and people he has known, and they reverberate and circle back upon the reader, forming small pieces in the larger puzzle of a life.
The book begins when Hannah and his friends were tiny but sincere, engaging in mock battles in the Quisenberrys’ pecan orchard. Hannah then moves on lightly, touching on friends, acquaintances, enemies, wives, and the violence and the beauty of life. Hannah’s friend Yelverston loses his wife to a younger man but she returns when their son is murdered. They track his murderers and bring them to justice. In his sixties, he fathers another child. Even more astonishing, he rehabilitates his son’s murderers. Hannah’s struggles are no less amazing. He drinks, alienates several wives, and is saved by Susan, his fourth wife, who is angry, who loves him, who fights him: “My wife leaned on me, trying not to hate me.”
Hannah’s characters are flawed but nobel. They continue to try: “I didn’t die yet,” Yelverston says. “None of us have died yet.” Hannah’s language sings with memorable contrariness: “The town was still running wild with Baptists and their happy morbid meetings.” Hannah’s landscape is peopled by strange, murderous, and exultingly alive characters. Among the most engaging “persons” are Hannah’s animals. Indeed, Hannah’s efforts for the Humane Society form the base of his efforts with humanity in general. Toward the end of the novel, Hannah tosses a boomerang on the beach. He is stunned at how easy and catchable it is. As he reaches for it, his dog, Ruth, catches it: “She just saw it and leapt up and there the big thing was in her happy mouth.” This is what Hannah seems to be doing as well, tossing and catching small, shining, unforgettable bits of his life and the larger, all-encompassing Life.