At age thirty-three, James Candler seems to be well on the road to success. He's in line for a big promotion at Onyx Springs, the treatment facility where he's a therapist. He has a fiancée, a sizable house, and a Porsche.
But ... he's falling in love with another woman, he's underwater on his mortgage, and he's put his hapless best friend in charge of his signature therapeutic program. Even the GPS on his car can't seem to predict where he should turn next. And his clients are struggling in their own hilarious, heartbreaking ways to keep their lives on track. How can he help them if he can't help himself?
In Tumbledown, Robert Boswell presents a large, unforgettable cast of characters who are all failing and succeeding in various degrees to make sense of our often-irrational world. In a moving narrative twist, he boldly reckons with the extent to which tragedy can be undone, the impossible accommodated.
There are yet states of being that have no name, anonymous human conditions that thrive at the periphery of powerful emotion the way bedroom communities manacle a city. James Candler and Elizabeth Ray reside in such a place. Separately. They are new arrivals. Candler showed up the last week of January, purchasing a big stucco house snouted by a two-car garage. A few weeks later, Elizabeth Ray paused in her pale subcompact to eye his residence. Neither the ugliness of it nor its enormity could dissuade her. She circled the block several times to look it over. Around the corner, she parked at an apartment complex. Her studio-with-balcony rented by the week.
The subtle pleasures of suburban life would prove difficult for Candler to seize. Shoving the mower around his front lawn left him without the humblest sense of accomplishment: what could he do in that yard? The elementary school down the street spawned a daily pa¬rade of idling station wagons and SUVs, a surprisingly ...
These characters, whatever their faults or shortcomings, seek love, connection, and dignity, just like anyone else. Boswell's novel reminds us of the fragility of these kinds of connections but also of their vital necessity—it recognizes the imperfections of "this tumbledown world," while highlighting the power and potential of every person to seek beauty and find meaningful relationships with others.
(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Full Review (1044 words).
Part of what brings together the characters in Tumbledown is their participation in a vocational rehabilitation program—in this case, training in an assembly-line setup designed to teach them to work on an actual factory floor. As portrayed in the novel, this type of work not only offers patients (modest) financial compensation, it also prepares them for real life after rehab.
Vocational rehabilitation and/or training is part of the treatment program for many conditions; the state of Texas's Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services lists a wide variety of disabilities—ranging from mental illness to hearing impairment—for which vocational rehabilitation might be appropriate. Part of the impetus for such ...
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