His Mother's Son
By Cai Emmons
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151007349, 376pp.)
Publication Date: January 2003
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Combining the page-turning momentum of a psychological thriller with the finely observed, nuanced portrayal of a domestic drama, playwright and filmmaker Cai Emmons has written an extraordinarily assured first novel that belongs on the shelf beside Sue Miller and Jane Hamilton.
Jana Thomas has built a successful life with a loving husband, a darling six-year-old son, Evan, and a rewarding position as an emergency-room doctor. She has always been a nervous, hypervigilant parent, but Evan’s seemingly normal all-boy tendencies are escalating her worry into something close to hysteria, threatening her job, her marriage, and her motherhood. The real source of Jana's disintegration is a past she has kept buried for sixteen years.
She once had another name, and a younger brother, Varney, to whom Jana was more than a big sister--mother, best friend, interpreter of the world all rolled into one. When Varney violently blew everything apart, Jana ran and never looked back. Until now, when she spots a speck of Varney’s rage in Evan, and the past begins to bleed into the present, gradually overwhelming it. Finally, Jana is forced to plunge into the emotional whirlpool she left behind. The results are shattering, profound, and wrenchingly moving.
Cai Emmons's plays have been produced at the American Place Theatre, Playwrights Horizon, and Theatre Genesis. Her M.F.A. film won the Student Academy Award in 1981. After eighteen years in the film industry, she returned to school to earn an M.F.A. in writing. This is her first novel. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.