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Kennedy's first novel offers a finely drawn portrait of a middle-aged man observing the inexorable, downward spiral of his life. At 39, Jack Sugrue has a quietly decaying house in Queens, N.Y., a beautiful sociologist wife he can neither talk to nor sleep with, two children he loves but occasionally frightens and a hack writing job that's a far cry from his youthful dream of creating poetry. "Why am I not content?" he wonders, calculating how soon his children will grow up and he'll be "free." But Jack moves quickly from merely watching his circumstances crumble to crashing them down upon his head: he drinks heavily, has an affair (that begins by reminding him of his aborted friendship with his wife but ends with the wasting of his mistress's love) and futilely attempts to challenge his boss and father-in-law, authority figures who bully and threaten him. Yet just as he is about to lose it all, Jack digs in, refusing to succumb to momentum, or vanish quietly: he'll make his intimates deal with him. Assessing endlessly, but never quite understanding himself or those around him, Jack is a memorable and recognizable character.