Cover image for The floodmakers
The floodmakers
Dressler, Mylène, 1963-
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Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, [2004]

Physical Description:
176 pages ; 22 cm
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Harry Buelle awakes confused one morning in his bathtub. His stepmother phones him, complaining that his father, a successful-and cantankerous-elderly playwright, has stopped taking his heart medicine. Harry has never heard her sound so tired, and, with his own life in shambles, agrees to join his parents-and his sister and her husband-at their Southern beach house retreat. Having the whole family together, cooped up in the same space, gives rise to old tensions and battles-the ache of childhood disappointments, the hurtful truth of parental expectations. But underneath the surface of a ritual family weekend lies a web of bitter secrets-and a staggering revelation. In taut, sparse, but never less than lyrical prose that mirrors the restraint and quiet desperation of its inhabitants, The Floodmakers delivers a carefully drawn glimpse into the complexities and frailties of family.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Dressler, author of The Deadwood Beetle (2001), has a penchant for imagining unusual family configurations and drastic family secrets, and in this mischievous tale of a family weekend from hell, she achieves a delicious level of drollery. Harry, the gay son of a famous southern playwright named Dee Buelle, is summoned to their shabby Gulf Coast home by his jaunty stepmother, Jeanie, formerly a professional golfer, who tells him that his father has stopped taking his heart medications. Harry's sister, Sarah, who suffers from epilepsy, and her annoying husband, Paul, also arrive, but they're on a mission: Sarah's making a documentary about their father. Dee and Jeanie, narcissistic and entwined, perform their shtick and their overly sensitive kids cringe while myriad resentments and rivalries surface, and thorny questions of love and ambition, family and inheritance, and life and death arise. Echoing Truman Capote in her gin-and-tonic humor and quirky charm, Dressler crafts hilariously poisonous dialogue and offers startling disclosures in a devilish little tale that could be titled, Whose Life Is It Anyway? --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Midway through Dressler's third novel (after The Medusa Tree and The Deadwood Beetle), narrator Harry Buelle, the frustrated gay son of Dee Buelle, a famous Southern playwright, recalls his own first production, a one-act play in graduate school: the actors rely on improvisation and "a current should be palpable between them," but is not. His father derides Harry's efforts as "a waste." This flashback is a snapshot of the Buelle family dynamics-and unfortunately, it also mirrors the lack of current between the novel's key players. Harry is summoned from his home in Houston by his stepmother, Jean, to make an appearance at his father's home on the Gulf Coast, where Dee is old and ailing. Harry's younger sister, Sarah (an epileptic filmmaker), is also arriving with her husband to finish her documentary on her illustrious father. The usual tensions arise: Dee expounds upon the "life of the artist" and criticizes his children; warm and competent Jean, a former golf champion, tends uncomplainingly to his needs; and both siblings harbor long-simmering resentments. Deep family secrets are revealed (often in flashback, diluting much of their effect), and sister Sarah has one big revenge fantasy to play out-but somehow, this tightly wound group never quite comes to life. The narrative moves slowly, despite the brief chapters, and the spare style makes the blowups and revelations, when they come, seem implausible. Harry is a tortured soul trying to grapple with an odd family legacy, but Dressler's fans will find little here to grapple with themselves. Agent, Paul Chung. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A wounded sea bird sits helplessly in a box at the Buell family beach house on the Texas Gulf Coast. Harry Buell has come here at his stepmother's request to visit his aging playwright father, Dee, who has lately refused to take his heart medication. Harry's histrionic sister, Sarah, and her husband, Paul, arrive during a freak Southern hailstorm, cameras in tow, intent on finishing a documentary on the life and distinguished writing career of Papa Buell. Under the bright lights of the cameras, terrible family secrets are confronted and relationships tested. In her third novel, Dressler (The Medusa Tree) delivers a well-crafted mix of compelling characters, paying close attention to staging, dialog, and setting. Similar in tone and sensibility to the fiction of Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams, this tense interior drama is tempered by Harry's first-person narration. This method is a wise choice because it adds touches of Harry's welcome, if dry, humor. Harry is a character readers may wish to hear from again. Highly recommended for larger fiction collections.-Jenn B. Stidham, Harris Cty. P.L., Houston, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.