Jernigan : a novel

by David Gates

Hardcover, 1991





New York : Knopf, 1991.


Peter Jernigan's life is slipping out of control. His wife's gone, he's lost his job and he's a stranger to his teenage son. Worse, his only relief from all this reality-alcohol-is less effective by the day. And when the medicine doesn't work, you up the dose. And when that doesn't work, what then? (Apart from upping the dose again anyway, because who knows?) Jernigan's answer is to slowly turn his caustic wit on everyone around him-his wife Judith, his teenage son Danny, his vulnerable new girlfriend Martha and, eventually, himself-until the laughs have turned to mute horror. But while he's busy burning every bridge back to the people who love him, Jernigan's perverse charisma keeps us all in thrall to the bitter end. Shot through with gin and irony, Jernigan is a funny, scary, mesmerising portrait of a man walking off the edge with his eyes wide open-wisecracking all the way.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member nbsp
I'm interested in the theme of alcoholism as it affects families. But this was just an interminable slog.
LibraryThing member hayduke
This novel is a swirling miasma of melancholia. In the beginning Jernigan is lying on the floor of a dilapidated trailer with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his hand. In between ingesting large quantities of gin, he recounts how he got to this lowly state. A beautiful masterpiece of sadness.
LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
After Peter Jernigan's wife dies in a bizarre accident on the 4th of July, he drifts through a year of heavy drinking, largely ignoring his teenage son. Shortly after the first year anniversary of his wife's death, he meets and moves in with the mother of his son's girlfriend. She is what is called a "suburban survivalist"--she lives off the grid, heating with a wood stove, largely surviving by eating the rabbits she raises in her basement, growing a vegetable garden, and dumpster diving.

This book was described as "darkly funny," and I also somewhere heard it described as an adult Catcher in the Rye. I found it very sad, although I had a hard time connecting with it. It was not a book that grabbed me.

2 1/2 stars
… (more)



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