Putnam,August 2008, $24.95
When Staten Island bartender John Sanders, Jr. learned that his father senior was executed mob style by an unknown culprit, he reacts with mixed feelings; on the one hand he is indifferent to the death of his cruel father while on the other he figures he got what he deserved. Senior physically and mentally abused him as a child.
However his sister Julia reacts differently to the death of their odious dad. She comes from Boston to arrange the funeral, but also wants to connect on a sibling level for the first time outside of avoiding their father with her brother. Perhaps it is Julia’s presence, but Junior feels a need to know the truth about his father’s death so he makes some tentative inquiries angrily hoping senior suffered.
The relationships between the dysfunctional Sanders family even after the abusive patriarch is dead is the prime story line superseding the whodunit. The fully developed cast is powerful even the deceased and the location Staten Island’s Fresh Kills symbolizes human decay and misery as the world’s largest garbage dump (higher than the Statue of Liberty). Bill Loehfelm provides a vivid look at the aftermath of parental abuse that clings like fungus to the victims; even years later as adults who cannot relate very well.