Tom Drury's 1994 debut novel, The End of Vandalism, captures the resolve of hapless Midwesterners with deadpan comic empathy. In Pacific, his fifth novel, Drury demonstrates that his dialogue-dominated style is equally suited to West Coast adolescent anomie. One of the great strengths of Drury's fiction is his ability to suggest the deep funny-sadness of life without sinking to ridicule or bathos. He celebrates quirkiness of speech and habit for its ability to particularize the individual beyond stereotype. Unexpected gestures connect characters and reveal wounds of the heart. There is no condescension or mockery toward anyone; even at their most self-deluded or mentally unstable, Drury invests his characters with a warm-blooded immediacy that demands respect.

It's a very leveling perspective, one in which the hopes and disappointments of a lifelong miscreant and a retired sheriff are given equal weight, and the privileged princesses of Los Angeles are no less deserving of understanding than a Midwestern boy who has been imported into a landscape that seems friendly yet offers him little connection.

It's rare to read a novel with so little cliché or convoluted prose, in which the dialogue is both believable and exceptional. Composed of forward-moving scenes, with very little exposition and zero banal musing, Pacific covers a lot of ground for such a lean novel: two very different American communities, a dozen well-developed characters, several career transitions, two noirish subplots and, most affectingly, one Midwestern teen's root shock when he gets plunked down in L.A. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

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