arts 06.4.13

Out Beyond the Verrazano
Every Person in New York

Out Beyond the Verrazano by Terrence Dunn is a book to read by the water.

But even if you can't place yourself in hearing distance of the waves, in sight of the ocean's far horizons, Dunn evokes them skillfully in this beautiful first novel about the McAfee clan—a fishing family, Irish, who live on City Island. The story is told by the patriarch, John Patrick, three sons, a daughter-in-law, and grandson. Not all of them are alive in 2008 when most of the action takes place, yet we feel their presence and sometimes hear from them in flashbacks.

Dunn writes with great insight and compassion about family attachments and the ties that bend—how they form, how they're upended, how they regenerate. The characters reflect on the vagaries of a life on the water, the trust and the betrayals of siblings, the seductions of alcohol, the siren call of places unknown and the allure of a clean slate.

You find many of these themes in O'Neill, and if Dunn writes with less dramatic import, he has more than a touch of the poet. The longest chapter in the book, though, takes place in West Virginia, when two of the brothers go on a nightmarish nighttime drive up a mountain with one of the good-old-boy locals. It gives the author a chance to shake off the ocean mist and the melancholy that overhangs much of the story.

There are stretches that might have benefitted from more showing and less telling, but even so Dunn sustains a fair amount of tension (just how strong are these familial bonds, anyway?) and we care increasingly about the characters as we come to understand them. The family boat, the Daybreak, figures prominently in the story and, in their way, the McAfees do reach port and a new morning.

Jason Polan started Every Person in New York in March of 2008. He plans on working on the project until it is finished. Look for Every Person in New York on Tuesdays in MUG and daily at Jason's site.

Crosby Street (from 2011)

recent entries

What the World Needs

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth

See all articles in ARTS

Get a daily dose of MUG
right in your Inbox.