Reviews

Larry's Party

Barbara Zatyko

There's nothing exotic about Larry's Party (Random House), by Carol Shields: it could have taken place in Windsor. In fact, I think I went to high school with Larry Weller, an all-around ordinary guy. The book is divided into pretty distinct chapters—like Larry's Folks, Larry's Penis, Larry's Living Tissues—which is helpful if you're reading it on a plane. I could leave Larry's Party while checking my luggage or choosing between stuffed chicken breast and Italian sausage pasta, and pick up right where I left off. Even chirpy flight attendants busily offering honey mustard pretzels did not disrupt the flow of Larry's Party. Larry is a regular guy, kind of boring, kind of indecisive, kind of confused, kind of frustrating. You know. There are no dragons to slay or KGB officers to outwit, but Shields's artistry makes the book work. She weaves Larry's roles as son, father, husband, lover and maze-designer into a life that is recognizable in its small defeats and small victories. It is not an exciting read, nor one to embark on when you need to escape (you don't escape anything), but it is authentic and well written.

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