Don’t Forget Me, Bro
The title of John Michael Cummings latest novel, Don’t Forget Me, Bro, constitutes the last words spoken to Mark Barr by his recently deceased brother. The narrator’s task is now to leave New York for his childhood home in Alma, West Virginia to pay his final respects. Plucked out of his angst-ridden life in the Metropolis, Mark is no better off in the quaint but tormenting atmosphere of the small town. Bottled up with a family crippled by psychiatric illness, he also recoils at the parochialism of his formative environment, a place where the inhabitants drift about wearing “we’re-all-in-the-arms-of-Jesus” smiles. A more merciful writer wouldn’t have exceeded a hundred pages in such an insipid setting, but Cummings challenges you, smothered beneath a sprawl of burger joints, auto-repair shops, and lurid projections of mass-produced America. This simplicity is exacerbated by Cummings’ plain, unadorned prose, which, while often effective, can sound strained and self-conscious when it gets too literary. Nonetheless, Cummings succeeds in bringing to light some noteworthy themes, one of the best of which is entrapment; whether it is by your past, inherited psychopathology, or plain old laziness, the family Barr is an aptly named one.
|Stephen F. Austin State University Press
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