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The Laments

A Novel

George Hagen

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Description

Meet the Laments—the affably dysfunctional globetrotting family at the center of George Hagen’s exuberant debut novel.

Howard is an engineer who dreams of irrigating the Sahara and lives by the motto “Laments move!” His wife Julia is a fiery spirit who must balance her husband’s oddly peripatetic nature with unexpected aspirations of her own. And Will is the “waif with a paper-thin heart” who is given to Howard and Julia in return for their own child who has been lost in a bizarre maternity ward mishap. As Will makes his way from infancy to manhood in a family that careens from continent to continent, one wonders where the Laments will ever belong.

In Bahrain, Howard takes a job with an oil company and young Will makes his first friend. But in short order he is wrenched off to another land, his mother’s complicated friendship with the American siren Trixie Howitzer causing the family to bolt. In Northern Rhodesia, during its last days as a white colony, the twin enfants terribles Marcus and Julius are born, and Will falls for the gardener’s daughter, a girl so vain that she admires her image in the lid of a biscuit tin. But soon the family’s life is upturned again, thie time by their neighbor Major Buck Quinn, with his suburban tirades against black self-rule. Envisioning a more civilized life on “the sceptered isle,” the Laments board an ocean liner bound for England. Alas, poor Will is greeted by the tribal ferocity of his schoolmates and a society fixated on the Blitz. No sooner has he succumbed to British pop culture in the guise of mop-top Sally Byrd and her stacks of 45s, than the Laments uproot themselves once again, and it’s off to New Jersey, where life deals crisis and opportunity in equal measure.

Undeniably eccentric, the Laments are also universal. Every family moves on in life. Children grow up, things are left behind; there is always something to lament. Through the Lament’s restlessness, responses to adversity, and especially their unwieldy love for one another, George Hagen gives us a portrait of every family that is funny, tragic, and improbably true.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Apr 26, 2004 – Ever in search of greener pastures, idealistic but frustrated engineer Howard Lament drags his long-suffering wife, Julia, and their three sons from South Africa to Rhodesia, Bahrain, England and America. The family's rootlessness weighs most heavily on eldest son Will, secretly adopted after a maternity ward mixup goes horribly awry, who feels the odd man out in the face of his constantly changing surroundings and the preternatural solidarity of his twin brothers. Hagen, a screenwriter and first-time novelist, makes the story a coming-of-age saga and familial drama, often comic in tone but also full of tragedy: car crashes, a kidnapping, death and dismemberment. As the Laments give up their privileged status under apartheid and eventually settle for downward mobility in the crass American suburbs, Hagan makes their wanderings and expatriate identity crises a commentary on the vexed legacy of British colonialism. The narrative sometimes slows to allow the Laments to hash out their liberal politics, and some sketchily drawn characters (Lament's son Julius is memorable largely for his un-self-conscious masturbatory rituals) die when their plot assignments are completed. Hagen pokes fun at Albion's seed with comic clichés—the Rhodesians are racist Colonel Blimps, the English are soccer thugs, the Americans are conformists, religious zealots or strident New Leftists. The Laments themselves, saddled with the melancholy of postimperial decline, are a spirited but slightly sad lot who wish for better lives. This is a funny, touching novel about the meaning of family, with an oddly high body count. should earn this unusual and enjoyable novel a modest following.
The Laments
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Jun 15, 2004
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 400 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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