His Illegal Self

Is Peter Carey’s intermittently lovely novel, His Illegal Self, an account of a heinous kidnapping? An off-kilter love story? A critique of 1960s extremism? All of the above? Dial, a sensible young woman, agrees to chaperone 7-year-old Che from his granny’s Park Avenue apartment for a brief visit with his outlaw mother, a spoiled-rich-girl-turned-radical-leftist. But crazy stuff happens en route. Dial and Che end up hiding from the cops on a hippie commune in Australia, trying to figure out what exactly they’re doing there and what happens next. Good questions, but they’re never adequately answered as Carey’s elliptical storytelling veers from deliciously ambiguous to maddeningly opaque. B

His Illegal Self
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