Tommy Ogden, a Gatsbyesque character living in a mansion outside robber-baron-era Chicago, declines to give his wife the money to commission a bust of herself from the French master Rodin and announces instead his intention to endow a boys school. Ogdens decision reverberates years later in the life of Lee Goodell, whose coming of age is at the heart of Ward Justs emotionally potent new novel.
Lees life decisionsto become a sculptor, to sojourn in the mean streets of the South Side, to marry into the haute-intellectual culture of Hyde Parkplay out against the crude glamour of midcentury Chicago. Justs signature skill of conveying emotional heft with few words is put into play as Lee confronts the meaning of his four years at Ogden Hall School under the purview, in the school library, of a bust known as Rodins Debutante. And, especially, as he meets again a childhood friend, the victim of a brutal sexual assault of which she has no memory. It was a crime marking the end of Lees boyhood and the beginning of his understandingso powerfully under the surface of Justs masterly storythat how and what we remember add up to nothing less than our very lives.