Second Season

Throughout 1986, Brennan McCalmont observes the signs--small and great--of passing time all around him. His neighbors buy cars, clothes, and Jacuzzis to maintain the increasingly unconvincing illusion of youth. Brennan’s belly is growing paunchy, and his legs lack their erstwhile spring. His older boy, Michael, starts college with a tuition bill that forces Brennan to sell the family summer house of his own youth. His teenage daughter Kate discovers the adolescent whirl of high school, dances, and dating. Worst of all, Brennan’s younger boy, eleven-year-old Louis, shows the progressively ominous scars of his fight against leukemia.

Brennan copes as best he can. He is unfailingly witty and playful, Bill Cosby-ing his children through social, sexual, and physical crises. He pays attention to the cycle of seasons and holidays, the calendar’s steady heartbeats. Brennan pushes his own body to regain the muscle tone and fluidity which made him a star high-school quarterback. Not foolish enough to believe he can stall the present and recover the past, Brennan nevertheless attempts to infuse today and tomorrow with ... with some value he can never articulate; yet it sustains him through a crisis that takes him from a sodden football field to a frightening hospital emergency room.

SECOND SEASON is one of several recent novels about fatherhood. The 1960’s generation, which eagerly rebelled against the seemingly pat, supposedly corrupted mores of its fathers, has now discovered the far rim of the generation gap. The better discoverers spare readers pontification and intellectualizing about this new dimension of experience.

Joseph Monniger is one of them. He writes movingly about fatherhood, presenting its sights, sounds, and sensations rather than its abstractions. Brennan McCalmont is a likable, unlikely hero in a battle against time. His children and wife are welcome three-dimensional alternatives to the cardboard presences of television and popular fiction families. The novel moves quickly, long on events and short on scenery, long on dialogue and short on speeches, long on its characters’ sensations and mercifully short on their self-analyses.