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The small town of Oakpine, WY, is abuzz: Jimmy Brand is coming home. Jimmy made it big in New York as a writer, but he's out of money and friends, and he has come home to die. Since his father forbids Jimmy to stay in the house, his mother enlists Jimmy's old friend Craig to turn the garage into a small apartment for Jimmy. Thirty years ago, while they were in high school, Jimmy and Craig had joined with friends Frank and Mason to form a rock and roll band that practiced in this very garage. Eventually, Craig went to Vietnam and returned to work in his father's hardware store; fixing up the old garage has put the spark back in Craig's life. Frank also stayed in town, bought real estate, and now owns a brewpub. Mason became a respected Denver attorney but has separated from his wife and is at loose ends. He has come back to Oakpine only to sell his folks' old place. As the four friends resurrect the band, long-held secrets are revealed and new beginnings forged. VERDICT With spirit and grace, Carlson (The Signal) has caught the essence of what might have been, as well as the importance of friends and family. A touching and affecting work of literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 1/25/13.]-Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Palisade, CO (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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The smalltown homecoming featured in the fourth novel from Carlson (The Signal) proves a bittersweet and nostalgic one. Jimmy Brand, following a 30-year absence from his hometown and a successful career in New York City as a novelist, returns to Oakpine, Wyo., in 1999, broke and deathly ill from AIDS. His father Edgar, still wrongly blaming Jimmy for his oldest son Matt's fatal boating accident and struggling to accept Jimmy's homosexuality, banishes him to the family's garage-converted apartment. Jimmy's old friend Craig Ralston, the town hardware store owner, comes by with his teenage son, Larry, to fix up the garage, sparking Craig's fond memories of their high school band, Life on Earth. Craig, along with fellow bandmates Mason Kirby, who left Oakpine to pursue a lucrative law career in Denver, and Frank Gunderson, a local bar owner, decide to resurrect Life on Earth, a welcomed diversion from their divorces and unsatisfying jobs, while Jimmy seeks to repair the long-term rift with his father. Carlson warmly evokes smalltown life, such as when he describes Larry's senior high school prom, and this sometimes-melancholy tale reaches a satisfying conclusion with the reunited rock group's entry into a local battle-of-the-bands contest. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt and Hochman. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.