Cover image for Child of my right hand
Child of my right hand
Goodman, Eric K.
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Publication Information:
Naperville, Ill. : Sourcebooks, [2004]

Physical Description:
315 pages ; 21 cm
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The stunning third novel from acclaimed author Eric Goodman is the story of a middle class family: college professors Jack and Genna Barish and their two children, fourteen-year-old Lizzy and seventeen-year-old Simon. The four have just moved to Tipton, Ohio, a small town divided by bigotry and class tensions, when Simon announces to his family, and eventually to the town, what his parents have long suspected--that he is gay.

As Jack and Genna struggle to deal with their son's sexuality, his oppressive, ever-present teenaged angst and the conflicts that are raised within their marriage, the complex dynamics of a family unfold: love, doubt, betrayal, and sympathy--all strikingly caught by the author. Equally vivid are the Tipton residents' spectrum of reactions to Simon, ranging from open acceptance to acts of violent rage. This is a beautifully written and complex work of fiction.

Author Notes

Eric Goodman is the author of four previous novels: High on the Energy Bridge, The First Time I Saw Jenny Hall, and In Days of Awe. He has won several fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council and directs the creative writing program at Miami University in Oxford, OH.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

When Simon Barish, 17, comes out of the closet, it's certainly no surprise to his parents, but he is harassed at school in the conservative midwestern town where he lives, and one day there's a cross burning in the yard. It turns out that Simon's mom's biological dad is gay--she's never contacted him-- and the family trip to San Francisco to meet him and his long-term partner in the gay capital of the world is a turning point for everyone. Woven into the story is the scientific controversy about whether homosexuality is hereditary. Simon's dad is a scientist, and he's researching whether finding a gay gene would lead to more abortions. More gripping than the intellectual arguments is the honesty of the personal drama. Simon is wonderfully drawn, from his feelings of lust and romance through his rising excitement at landing the lead in the school musical. Best of all are the family scenes, from mutual irritation to furious quarrel to soppy embrace. With heartbreaking honesty, Goodman shows that they love each other, even if each of them can be a royal pain. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A gay adolescent boy's coming of age tests the social fabric of a small Midwestern town in Goodman's poignant fourth novel, inspired by his experience with his own son's sexuality. Simon Barish is the openly gay son of academics Genna and Jack, who relocate from Cincinnati to take teaching positions in Tipton, Ohio. The pervasive smalltown homophobia and looming threat of violence keep the couple and Simon's younger sister, Lizzie, constantly on edge, while Simon's sweet but raunchy efforts to find his first boyfriend could land him in jail if he picks the wrong would-be paramour. Compelling parental subplots emerge when Jack, a social scientist, abandons his study of Nazi eugenics to examine the role of heredity in gay children, and Genna embarks on a search for her birth father. The book's greatest strength is its character writing, with Goodman compassionately presenting Simon's erratic charms as well as the foibles of Genna and Jack, each of whom is well developed enough to carry the book. The entertaining cast of gay secondary figures who surface on a family trip to San Francisco balance the narrative, softening the overall tension. Though the near-tragic ending feels rushed and formulaic, Goodman eloquently addresses many of the cultural conflicts that help define American family life in the early 21st century. Agent, Michelle Tessler. (Oct.) Forecast: A vibrant, scrawly cover and a great blurb from T.C. Boyle should help this novel be noticed; the autobiographical subject matter could make Goodman an interesting interview prospect. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved