Ann Patchett's second novel to be published in the UK, following the Orange Prize-shortlisted 'The Magician's Assistant'. John Nickel is a black ex-jazz musician who only wants to be a good father. When his son is taken away to Miami by his mother, Nickel is left with nothing but Muddy's, the Memphis blues bar that he manages. Then he hires Fay ...
Ann Patchett's second novel to be published in the UK, following the Orange Prize-shortlisted 'The Magician's Assistant'. John Nickel is a black ex-jazz musician who only wants to be a good father. When his son is taken away to Miami by his mother, Nickel is left with nothing but Muddy's, the Memphis blues bar that he manages. Then he hires Fay Taft, a young white waitress from east Tennessee who has a volatile brother, Carl, in tow. They spell nothing but trouble for Nickel. Fay stirs up both romantic and paternal impulses in him and Carl is clearly a no-good. But Nickel finds himself consumed with the idea of Taft, Fay and Carl's dead father, and begins to reconstruct the life of a man he never met but whose place he has taken.
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Publishers Weekly, 1994-07-18 Following her well-received debut, The Patron Saint of Liars , Patchett convincingly portrays a bar manager's conflicted feelings for a teenage waitress in this tale of fatherhood and unfulfilled dreams. Narrator John Nickel runs a bar called Muddy's on Memphis's Beale Street. He took the job to help provide for his lover, Marion, and their 10-year-old son, Franklin, who have since moved away, leaving him concerned that the boy lacks paternal guidance. When 17-year-old Fay Taft shows up at Muddy's, lies about her age and asks for a job, Nickel is touched by her neediness and hires her. But he doesn't bargain on her growing desire for him, or on her drug-dealer brother, who brings sleazy clients to the bar. Another complication is the issue of race--Fay is white, Nickel black--but the author concentrates on the color-blind moral problems that any family faces. As Nickel contemplates his own predicaments, he imagines scenes of the Tafts in a stable home before their father died. His sincere sense of responsibility--to his son, to Fay, even to Fay's no-good brother--is conveyed with visceral power, although the hard-boiled dialogue often resembles parody. Patchett's characters may include tough cookies with hearts of gold, but the novel is at its best when she mutes the melodrama and focuses on basic moral issues. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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