Goodness

Tim Parks, Author Grove/Atlantic $17.95 (185p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1390-0
Having previously depicted the excesses of religious fundamentalism in Tongues of Flame , Parks here ironically explores the meaning of moral ``goodness'' from the point of view of a fiercely atheistic protagonist. George Crawley is the son of a missionary murdered in Burundi and a piously self-sacrificing, ``obstinately optimistic'' mother, who takes George and his sister back to England and dedicates the rest of her life to caring for her foul-tempered old father and the ``walking wounded'' of the Methodist Church. Scornful of all religious observance and determined to rise in the world, George transcends his lower-middle-class background in a marriage to wealthy Shirley Harcourt, with whom he pursues the good life--until she gives birth to a deformed, severely handicapped child. Scenes reminiscent of Joe Egg detail baby Hilary's travails and her parents' realization that she will always be a burden. Though he learns to love the child, George is determined to end Hilary's existence--and Shirley's martyrdom in caring for her--via euthanasia. The evolution of George's moral conscience, his epiphany during a crisis he has deliberately created, and Shirley's own decision in the novel's astonishing denouement will keep readers absorbed in this mordant, thought-provoking tragicomedy. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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