Purple America Author:Rick Moody Amazon.com: — Purple America begins in a bathtub and ends in Long Island Sound. In between, Rick Moody's latest novel explores the landscape of a family in crisis. Dexter (Hex) Raitliffe, a freelance publicist, returns home to care for his mother, Billie, who is dying by inches of a neurological disease that will rob her of motion, of speech, and... more » finally of thought. Billie's second husband has left her--a fact that Hex is unaware of until he comes home--and her only hope for assisted suicide lies in her son. Unfortunately, Hex is barely able to conduct his own life, much less take his mother's. Purple America takes place over the course of a single night; in that night, Hex gives his mother a bath, reconnects with an old love, gets drunk, and goes after his stepfather to confront him, with tragic results.
As Moody weaves his tale of this fateful Friday evening, he juxtaposes themes of aging, obsolescence, and physical decline with an accident at the nuclear power plant where his stepfather works. What lifts this novel above its rather depressing subject matter is Moody's unsentimental storytelling and the soaring language with which he gives his characters voice. Purple America is by turns lyrical, tragic, ferocious, and funny, and Rick Moody is a writer with a brilliant future ahead of him.
From Library Journal:
The explosive cleavage of the atom and its attendant fallout provide the arch-metaphor for Moody's third novel. Billie Raitliffe, of Fenwick, Connecticut, suffers from a paralyzing neuralgic disorder and cannot care for herself. Younger husband Lou Sloane, a nuclear plant manager, has moved out, so she calls on her middle-aged, alcoholic son Dexter (Hex). The specter of Hex's father, a Manhattan Project scientist who died of radiation poisoning, hovers perceptibly over the proceedings. In a 36-hour span, Billie is injured, Hex consummates a lingering high school crush in a bizarre fashion, and Lou presides over a nuclear emergency the day of his forced early retirement. The events do not occur discretely but are part of a chain reaction Moody engineers in an atomic experiment. He renders his findings in vivid, intense, and often unpleasant detail, effectively reviving the nuclear threat and limning its symbolic and etymological resonance with domestic breakdown (half-life, decay) without denying the humanity of the characters or the centrality of the story. Despite the occasionally overwrought prose, Moody has redrawn the suburban landscape, as defined by Updike and Cheever. Fans of both will want to discover this new country.« less