three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
11-July-Aug-2004
user_rating: 
0

A-HoleUniverseAfter 25 years in jail for murder, Gordon Loomis has paid his debt to society. But when the ex-con returns to his old neighborhood, he finds a world that has fallen into sharp decline and which he no longer understands. A Hole in the Universe recounts how Loomis adjusts to his new, disordered life while still coming to terms with his crime and memories of the victim’s family. As he puts it, "Reentering the world didn’t make a free man." The novel intertwines Loomis’s story with those of the three women who must adjust to the shy giant’s sudden appearance in their lives.
Viking. 376 pages. $24.95.

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Morris is a master at sympathetic portraits of those clinging to the peripheries of society. … [She] has a rare talent for crafting indelible portraits of small-town life, making you hear and smell and see the place so clearly you could map it with your eyes closed." Caroline Leavitt

SD Union-Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"All the characters talk like real people, and they behave in ways and for reasons that seem real. … They are all absorbingly human, with frailties and fears, loyalties, high-flying hopes, despair and kindness—and some triumphs, once they learn to tell a triumph." Jeanne Freeman Brooks

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"Mary McGarry Morris has a brilliant talent for exploring the dark side of normalcy. She depicts damaged individuals in a way that makes them real, makes them hurt, makes you hope for them." Ashley Simpson Shires

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Mary McGarry Morris likes to put her characters in a predicament and let them run. … We discover what it feels like to have committed a terrible and irreversible act; to be catapulted into the rush and noise and irrelevance of ordinary life after a quarter century outside it; to find transforming joy in the simplest things."Ann Harleman

Baltimore Sun 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It takes months for Gordon to work up the courage for the simplest act—ordering a pizza delivery—yet only hours for his new life to unravel in a series of coincidences. This is perhaps satisfying to the lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key crowd: Because the odds are obviously stacked against men like Gordon, why not just keep them in jail, so not only we but they are more comfortable?" Lisa Simeone

Chicago Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The middle of A Hole in the Universe stalls a bit, but this perhaps reflects the way Gordon’s life itself is stalled. For the most part, the novel is a compelling and poignant read about a man who doesn’t believe he can start his life over, and the people around him who are determined to help him take the first steps." Jessica Treadway

NY Times 2 of 5 Stars
"The author … indulges in considerable melodrama as Gordon gets involved with a pregnant crack addict and his brother’s mistress. What keeps this borderline potboiler simmering is the sense that the characters really are evolving." John Hartl

Critical Summary

Returning to modern society after spending 25 years behind bars can be a jarring experience. For someone like Gordon Loomis, still struggling with his part in the death of a young, pregnant woman, the world outside of prison is almost too unpredictable to bear. A Hole in the Universe is a gritty and compelling tale of a tortured criminal and the women who inhabit his disordered circle of friends. Morris, the author of three previous novels including the Oprah-approved Songs in Ordinary Time, weaves crime, poverty, and addiction into her characters’ daily lives, depicting their complex relationships with sympathy. Even as she bares Loomis’s burden of guilt, Morris ultimately offers readers a story of redemption.