Connie is dying. She wants her brother to write the story of her life. OK. Sure. Simple enough. Right?
Suppose your more than mildly irritating leech of a sister calls you, as she usually does wanting money, only this time she says instead that she has cancer and in the course of the conversation challenges you to write the story of her life. You say, sure, you'll do that but you'll tell it the way you see it.
The tale that emerges involves not only the dying sister, Connie, but brother Len as well. And it's also about "me," the sibling invited to narrate their shared story and whose interplay of memory and imagination raises the question of whether "the truth" of Connie's life - or of anyone's for that matter - can ever be known.
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RECOMMENDED This family saga, Gary D. Wilson’s second novel, centers around three middle-aged siblings from Kansas. In “Getting Right,” the youngest, Connie, develops terminal lung cancer. She requests her unnamed middle sibling, a writer who left Kansas for Chicago and beyond, to record her life story. Ostensibly, that’s what he sets about doing, along with the life of their elder, stroke-stricken brother Len along the way, but at the heart of the novel is the narrator’s own story, of his departure from Kansas and his separation from the people he once called family. “Getting Right” is one of those books where much of what makes it a compelling read isn’t what is being told, but rather how. Wilson’s sprawling prose is reminiscent of a novel like “All the King’s Men,” and similarly features a conversational narrator who strings us along for the ride. The charms of the narrator are undeniable, but they badly mask his core and fascinating unreliability. The language is such that the novel lacks any quoted dialogue, our narrator going quite so far as to paraphrase a letter from his sister in his own words rather than reproducing it into the text. The choice in language says as much about our character as does the content: that our narrator has a desperate need to tell his version of events above all others. What this aside about language might reveal is the extent to which “Getting Right” is a meaty book. It’s a book that gets better to the extent that you read it closely. There are passages throughout whose deeper meaning might elude at a first glance, but gain it in relation to another passage on perhaps the other side of the book. It’s a thematically rich novel, dealing not only with ideas about death and familial abandonment, but also the craft of stories themselves. “Getting Right” By Gary D. Wilson Roundfire Books, 241 pages, $16.95 ~ Brendan Buck, New City (Chicago) Lit
Suppose your more than mildly irritating leech of a sister calls you, as she usually does wanting money, only this time she says instead that she has cancer and in the course of the conversation challenges you to write the story of her life. You say, sure, you'll do that but you'll tell it the way you see it. The tale that emerges involves not only the dying sister, Connie, but brother Len as well. And it's also about "me", the sibling invited to narrate their shared story and whose interplay of memory and imagination raises the question of whether "the truth" of Connie's life (or of anyone else's for that matter) can ever be known. "Getting Right" is an absolutely absorbing and exceptional novel that establishes author Gary D. Wilson as an original and impressively gifted storyteller of the first order. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Getting Right" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.49). ~ , Midwest Book Review
Gary Wilson's Getting Right got right to me. It's smart and funny but, more than anything, it's achingly honest about family - the hurts that persist no matter how many apologies or how much forgiveness, the unreliability of shared memories, and the constancy of love, imperfect and annoying as it may be. This is a beautiful read. ~ Achy Obejas, author of the novel Ruins and editor of Immigrant Voices. Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction
Aptly titled, Gary D. Wilson's compelling novel Getting Right indeed gets it right through a colorful, conversational narrative about the lives and deaths of a man's all-too-human brother and sister. Like a conversation with a good friend over a beer, the book is full of stories both comic and sad. This is an honest, memorable work about family and its demands, honorably told, a book full of grace, grit, and gentle humor. ~ Anthony V. (Tony) Ardizzone, author most recently of The Whale Chaser. Recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Awards, the Flanne
Gary Wilson has written here a poignant tale of imperfection and frailty and the bloody root of living mortality: the madness of family and illness and regret and the muddle of life claiming victory, even over implacable death. His story traces the profound force of individual origin, how the conditions from which we hail transcend time and memory and linger beyond their own limits within us, authoring fate, making a mess of well-laid lives, and proving the willful a feckless lot. For all the morbidity usually bound up with such themes, Wilson tells his story from a deep reserve of caustic humor and endows this narrative with an insight that cuts to the quick. It is a deeply personal tale of the price of survival that manages to get at something relevant to the mad ways of humanity and being. ~ Bayo Ojikutu, author of Free Burning and 47th Street Black. Winner of the Washington Prize for Fiction and the Great American Book Award
Here's a ticket to the end of life's guilt trips. Flying always back home to Kansas, burying first his hopeless brother and later his hyper-resentful sister, Gary Wilson's narrator whips up what seems a lifetime's worth of bad jokes, great stories, and mislaid joys - and in the eye of the storm somehow strikes a note of mordant gutsiness and clear-eyed love. A book about death that is rippling with vigor and comedy, Getting Right embraces all that is wrong with life in a bear hug that won't let go. ~ Benjamin Lytal, author of A Map of Tulsa