Troy Patterson
March 09, 2001 AT 05:00 AM EST

Everyday People

Current Status
In Season
Stewart O'Nan

We gave it a B

The title promises lyrical social realism, and the novel delivers, weaving gritty street rhythms with a Faulknerian flow. It’s set in Pittsburgh in 1998, spanning a month that culminates in the dedication of the Martin Robinson Express Busway, a commuter route of broken dreams exemplifying the decline of a black working-class neighborhood. Two kids fell from its walkway while throwing up graffiti tags. One died, the other is in a wheelchair, and O’Nan spins interior vignettes about their families — a grieving grandmother, an ex-gangbanger brother, a closeted father sneaking out to meet his gay lover. Their regrets and remembrances are fashioned with poignancy and deep compassion, but this static dirge, propelled only by events that precede its beginning, fails to offer any real action of its own. B

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