Sandra Scoppettone Kirkus Reviews - Essay

Kirkus Reviews

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In Such Nice People], Scoppettone wants you to meet the Nash family of Logan, Pa.—a clean-cut, well-fed, all-American clan with seething craziness just beneath the surface. Cole, the father: over-protective of the kids, inhibited, zombie-like, pops Valium, is bitter about giving up a hot affair, dreams of escape. Mother Anne: daughter of an alcoholic, miserable, longing to consummate an affair with nice Jim. Older daughter Kit: normal, a little over-hungry for sex maybe. Younger daughter Sara: fat, compulsive eater, feels deprived of love because of older siblings growing up and away. Likewise younger sons Steven and Max: Steve's a marijuana freak, Max has the occasional violent fit. And then there's 17-year-old Tom—handsome, charming, athletic—who's totally bonkers behind his boy-next-door facade: he has visions, hears voices, believes he's being directed by a deity called SOLA, and plans to kill his entire family (except Kit) at Christmastime. And even after Tom waves a gun at neighbor Esther, tells everyone about SOLA, and is seen by the other kids masturbating and raping himself with a toilet plunger …, the family's so uptight that they just wait around to be killed: Tom butchers two neighbors, both parents, grandma, and three siblings. The basic point—that those photogenic WASPy families sometimes are just as crazy as ethnic ones—has been made before…. [Scoppettone] merely lays it on indiscriminately, in a shallow jazzy style full of flashbacks that's effective only in the few well-observed glimpses of kids acting normally. So: enough family pathology to keep a Psych. 101 class busy all semester—but the clinical potpourri doesn't add up, leaving this an unconvincing and unimaginative sick-a-thon that's ultimately just exploitational and more than a little loathsome.

A review of "Such Nice People," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1980 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLVIII, No. 5, March 1, 1980. p. 319.