Sunday, May 5, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

E-mail article     Print


''Going To The Sun''

Special To The Seattle Times

----------------------------------------------------------------- "Going to the Sun" by James McManus HarperCollins, $23 -----------------------------------------------------------------

In a blurb on the back of James McManus' new novel, "Going to the Sun," Scott Turow equates Penny Culligan's bike ride of self-discovery from Chicago to Alaska with Huck Finn rafting down the Mississippi.

Not quite. Both Penny and Huck are young, solitary figures who meet interesting black men mid-journey. But Twain's brilliance was in revealing Huck's humanity despite his racist upbringing.

Penny never really gets past her upbringing. When she first meets Ndele and his expensive sports car in the middle of North Dakota, she assumes he's a carjacker, criminal, something nefarious. At times she descends into that embarrassing white version of black-speak - "Just chill," she says - all of this without any sense of irony from either her or McManus.

In fact, Ndele's true occupation is the flip side of white assumption: He's not a criminal, folks, he is - ta-da! - a professional basketball player. A Seattle SuperSonic, believe it or not.

The novel is also clunky with the pop-cultural artifacts of the day: The Edge, "Seinfeld," Mazzy Starr, "da Bears." It will all seem dated in five years, if not already. In its defense, "Going to the Sun" is pleasant enough. It reads like the wind. It's just too immersed in the assumptions of the modern world to comment properly upon them.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


Get home delivery today!