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Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

Reviews of the novel have been overwhelmingly positive. Rand Richards Cooper in his article for Commonweal considers Charming Billy to be Mcdermott's "most challenging [novel] to date" and"incorrigibly digressive, brash with time, intricately layered and crammed full of life."

One of the most highly lauded qualities of the novel is Mcdermott's style. Cooper notes her narrative expertise when he writes: "The Christian echo of a redemptive, sacrificial quality to Billy's passion could be heavy-handed. But Mcdermott guards against bathos by making those mourners who explicitly construe Billy as a Christ figure themselves seem heavy-handed." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly insists that this "poignant and ironic story" is filled "with dialogue so precise that a word or two conjures a complex relationship." The review concludes: "Mcdermott's compassionate candor about the demands of faith and the realities of living brings an emotional resonance to her seamlessly told, exquisitely nuanced tale."

Cooper also praises the novel's realism : "Mcdermott isn't content merely to describe a texture of...

(The entire section is 335 words.)