Friday, January 18, 2013

Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach

Lizard Hochmeyer is a giant.  Not literally, but he is 6'8" tall and the star quarterback of his high school football team.  He is taller than those around him.  But Lizard also has a giant heart.  His concern for others, especially his family, takes him on a tailspin that starts his senior year and is finally resolved decades later.

Lizard's parents are mysteries to him, as parents mostly are to their children.  His mother comes from money but in the Midwest.  She marries Lizard's dad who she sees as glamorous, since he comes from the East.  Unfortunately, he is a charismatic guy who cuts corners and makes his way through life more on charm than skill.  Their marriage is rocky, two disparate individuals who share nothing in common but the kids and an undying lust for each other. 

As are his parents, Lizard can't figure out his sister, Kate.  She is gorgeous, bright and full of secrets.  As the book starts, she has gone to Yale.  Then there are the neighbors.  Not your ordinary country club couple, although there are plenty of those folks in town.  No, the neighbors in this case are one of the world's power couples.  Dabney is a major rock star, one whose every action is followed by the press.  His wife is Sylphide, a ballerina considered to be the world's best talent.  Their house is shrouded in more mysteries.  Ordinarily the two families' paths would never cross, but Dabney and Sylphide have a son, Linsay, who needs constant care, and they hire Kate to be one of his main caretakers.  Soon Kate is full of new secrets she learns at the house of Dabney and Sylphide.

Tragedy strikes.  Lizard's dad is arrested, part of a major financial scandal.  He agrees to turn state's evidence.  The family gathers for a final luncheon before he enters protective custody, and in front of Lizard and Kate, the parents are gunned down. 

Years pass.  Lizard becomes the star quarterback at Princeton and later has a mediocre career in the NFL.  He can't move past that senior year.  He and Kate are consumed with the desire to discover what went on and who killed their parents.  Over the years, Lizard has met and become entangled with Sylphide, and he tries to push through the concealments and secrets there to determine if she is involved in his parent's death, as Kate believes.  He can't move into a love of his own as Sylphide comes and goes in his live, picking him up occasionally for a few weeks, then jetting off to do whatever she wants to do.

Bill Roorbach has written a fascinating novel, full of intrigue and vividly drawn characters.  Readers will retain memories of Lizard long after the last page is turned.  The book deftly draws the line between the falseness and damage of secrets held, sometimes for decades, and the clarity found when the truth is known.  This book is recommended for readers of family conflict and any reader looking for a wonderful novel to get lost in.

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