3 out of 5: In Michael Mewshaw’s latest novel, three grown siblings, all haunted by a traumatic childhood, converge on their dying mother’s home in Maryland. Maury, the eldest sibling, has Asperger’s and suffers under the guilt of having killed his own father years ago while defending his mother. Candy, the middle sibling, lives with the aftereffects of polio. Still living in Maryland and taking care of her mother, Candy longs for a life and love of her own. Quinn, the youngest, is an actor living in London, who supports his mother financially but otherwise attempts to minimize all contact with his troubled family. When the family comes together, shocking secrets are revealed, culminating in a dramatic, if predictable, ending.
The narrative alternates among the three voices of the siblings, but, because there’s little difference between Candy’s and Quinn’s voices (Maury’s Asperger’s makes his voice a bit more distinct), much of the effect is lost. Further, depicted as unrelentingly abusive and selfish, the mother has few redeeming qualities and forms an unconvincing emotional center of this novel. Mewshaw’s real strength is in writing credible dialog. At least half the book (and probably more) is straight dialog, which keeps the pace lively and engaging. Although lacking depth of characterization, Lying with the Dead is an entertaining and quick-paced family drama.