T(homas) Alan Broughton Sheldon Frank - Essay

Sheldon Frank

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A Family Gathering is what one always hopes a first novel will be—a fresh, carefully crafted, and moving story. The ending is a bit unconvincing, but that is a quibble. T. Alan Broughton, a poet and short-story writer, has written a wise and tender book….

Nothing could be more familiar than a novel about the crises of adolescence and middle age, but Broughton tells the familiar story with remarkable freshness and authority. His prose is clear and economical, at times beautiful, and never descends into cliche. What is most impressive is his ability to express the fleeting consciousness of both Bailey and his son. We float in and out of their minds with astonishing ease; Broughton perfectly captures the jumble of desires, fears, hesitancies, and confusions that drive both of these driven men. His touch is always deft.

A Family Gathering is a surprising oasis—a quiet, affecting, unassertive novel without cant or sentimentality. It has been compared to James Agee's Death in the Family, and it is equal to the comparison. It is a wonderful debut by a gifted young writer.

Sheldon Frank, "Rattling the Skeletons: A Familiar Tale, Freshly Told," in The National Observer (reprinted by permission of The National Observer; © Dow Jones & Company, Inc. 1977; all rights reserved), June 13, 1977, p. 21.