Life Among Giants

Bill Roorbach's Life Among Giants is a novel of extravagant imagination about David "Lizard" Hochmeyer, a sweet high school quarterback from suburban Connecticut who loses his parents in a double murder and falls under the sway of the famous ballerina next door. As Lizard goes on to college and then the pros, he and his older sister, Kate, struggle separately to solve the mystery of their parents' demise. Lizard relates their story in retrospect, and by letting the revelations unfold over the decades, Roorbach makes the novel a leisurely mystery as well as a bildungsgroman. It's also a playful anthropological portrait of American preoccupations in the late 20th century: country club aspirations, 9-to-5 chicanery, Ivy League bumptiousness, the use of touchy-feely psychology in pro sports, the deification of prima ballerinas and the sloppy hedonism of 1960s rock stars.

"High Rise," the mansion that looms on the other side of the pond from the Hochmeyers' back yard, is home to English rock star Dabney Stryker-Stewart, his Norwegian ballerina-wife, Sylphide, and his disabled son from a previous marriage. One of the novel's seductions is discovering the extent of the connections between the modest Hochmeyers and the bohemian goings-on at High Rise.

Life Among Giants serves up descriptive bounty, including details on architecture, football, ballet, esoteric foodiness, restaurant management, touch-based bodywork and classic sailboats, and skillfully uses significant objects and nicknames as plot talismans. He also successfully creates a dozen unusual characters, from the slippery-yet-sturdy Sylphide down to the High Rise's fleet of eccentric factotums. Similar to the work of John Fowles, Life Among Giants contains flashes of fantasy and obsession. --Holloway McCandless

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