San Antonio writer Andrew Porter’s debut novel, In Between Days (Knopf), is a powerful portrait of family dysfunction, a worthy successor to his award-winning short story collection, The Theory of Light and Matter. Unfortunately, Porter’s close observations of upper-middle-class unhappiness aren’t matched by a deep knowledge of his story’s Houston setting. He mentions that one character worked at the Whole Foods in Montrose three years ago, even though the store opened last year, and another character refers to Nuevo Laredo as “New Laredo,” which is simply unheard of. There’s a general fogginess about Houston life that will be apparent even to recent transplants—the main characters almost never leave the small Montrose neighborhood, which is all but impossible to conceive. It feels as if Porter visited the city, spoke at Rice, made some notes, and left it at that. He hits the obvious places a hip young writer would learn about as a visitor to Houston but not the places where a hip young Houston writer would actually hang out. So, rather than a depiction of a specific time and place, take In Between Days as a universal comment about love, loyalty, and loss. In this, it succeeds.
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