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California writer Gerald Haslam has won wide acclaim as the voice of the Central Valley's working class, its Okies and oil-field roughnecks. Now, in this poignant new novel, he explores the lives of the children of those workers, men and women who have achieved middle-class status and comfort in the state's fluid economy but who are never far from their...
California writer Gerald Haslam has won wide acclaim as the voice of the Central Valley's working class, its Okies and oil-field roughnecks. Now, in this poignant new novel, he explores the lives of the children of those workers, men and women who have achieved middle-class status and comfort in the state's fluid economy but who are never far from their humble roots. Leroy Upton, the "straight white male" who is the novel's central character, has come a long way from the sun-baked working-class neighborhood in Bakersfield where he grew up. The son of an oil-field laborer, Leroy is now a professor at a small college in Northern California. He is happily married, has three much-loved children, and close friends who share his memories and success. But life is about to deliver a series of challenges that overturn Leroy's hard-won serenity and threaten to destroy his marriage and his family. Leroy's father, Earl, once so wise and invincible, is descending into the empty, helpless depths of senility, while his ill-tempered mother struggles with her own health problems. The marriage of a high-school friend ends tragically. And Leroy wrestles with his own bitter secret--his fierce resentment of his beloved wife's troubled past and of the other men who knew her before he married her. Straight White Male is a moving and powerful account of middle age and the heart-wrenching complexities of family life. As Leroy struggles to satisfy the needs of three generations of his family, his friends, and ultimately his own angry heart, he has to learn what it means to be a son--and finally the true nature of love and forgiveness. Rich in vivid characters and "right on" descriptions of the vagaries of the human condition, this is an unforgettable novel, modern California seen through the eyes of one of the state's finest and most compassionate writers.
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