Two-time Texas Institute of Letters Award winner Michael Mewshaw has delivered an impeccable eleventh novel, Lying with the Dead, which plumbs the depths of one dysfunctional Maryland family’s misery. Mitchell siblings Maury, Quinn, and Candy find their happiness to be directly proportional to the distance between them and their brutal, manipulative mother. Maury has escaped to relative peace in an Arizona trailer park following a twelve-year incarceration for his father’s murder. Quinn has sneaked off to a cushy acting career in London, where he is blissfully estranged. Only Candy has stayed behind to tend to 77-year-old Mom (no name, just Mom) and absorb abuse from the overmedicated tyrant with “a mouth on her that’s as bad as a fist.” When the boys are lured home by their mother’s secret promises and gifts, the fragile family détente collapses under the weight of old hatreds and recriminations. Lying With the Dead consciously evokes classic Greek tragedy: When Quinn is tapped for two roles in The Oresteia, he draws the obvious comparison to his family’s dark past. Though there is nothing regal about the Mitchell bloodline, there are clear echoes of the House of Atreus in this unvarnished portrait of a clan whose home is blessed with neither luck nor love. Other Press, $14.95
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