A Patchwork Planet

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May 15, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Barnaby Gaitlin, 29, the undereducated, underachieving son of a fancy family (his brother is the successful one). Barnaby Gaitlin, directionless, divorced, an unreliable father to a young daughter, making hourly wages as a body for hire at Rent-a-Back, doing chores for old and sick folks who can’t do it themselves. Barnaby Gaitlin, former teenage vandal, now piecing his world together by rummaging around other people’s homes for pay. This could only be Tyler territory, where losers are treated with a tenderness that encourages them (without mollycoddling them) to consider winning in the world. In her 14th novel, A Patchwork Planet, the persuasive storyteller with the beautiful, unforced style works her familiar ground — family, connection, the quirks of humans — with ease. She’s particularly observant about the indignities of aging: ”The jar lids they can’t unscrew, the needles they can’t thread, the large print that’s not quite large enough, even with a magnifying glass.” She’s quirky without being cutesy. In the hands of another writer, Barnaby Gaitlin would be an insufferable schlemiel. Instead, he’s a Tyler man worth knowing. A

A Patchwork Planet

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A Patchwork Planet

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