Judith's Reviews > Taft

Taft by Ann Patchett
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's review
Apr 22, 2012

really liked it
Read on April 22, 2012

In Taft, Patchett takes on the character of a black man. And does it well, as best as I can tell. In her notes about this book, she says she tried out narration from many different characters' points of view and when she tried John Nickel's it fell into place. She also considers this novel the poor stepchild, the forgotten one, compared to her other books.

It's a remarkable tale, about a young white girl, Fay Taft, who asks to be a waitress at the bar managed by Nickel. He hires her, finds she is a good worker, and soon finds that she has a brother, Carl, about a year younger than Fay. Nickel becomes fond of them both, and finds himself avoiding his feelings about Fay. When she wants more from him the urge becomes that much more difficult to resist.

Yet what really starts to consume Nickel is the siblings' father. It was his death that caused Fay and Carl to move away from their hometown, with their mother, and to live with an aunt and uncle in Memphis. Their lives were clearly turned upside down by the death of this parent. Nickel begins to think about who he was, what he was like, and he creates little scenes in his head about the kind of father Taft was. While he thinks about Taft he also works to bring his own young son home to Memphis. It is as much a story about being a father as anything else.

An absorbing story about the recent south, the continuation of prejudices and the accommodations made for them, about the nature of love, about fatherhood.

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