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Reviews of ‘Cleaver’

His new home is acquired somewhat abruptly through the death of its previous inhabitant. On moving in, Cleaver finds he has not only inherited the old man’s dog, several members of the deceased’s obvious troubled family seem to come with the tenancy. Throughout the narrative Parks makes good use of mixing the past and present tenses.
Cleaver is not only trying to sort out his head, he wants to lose some weight and hopefully reduce his chances of an impending heart attack. He is also endeavouring to keep his sexual urges at bay. Touches of what could have been zany comedy hover on the sidelines; though for all the humour – and this is a humorous book – Parks has serious intentions.
In terms of technique, this is an impressive performance. Parks describes the physical world revolving around his anti- hero. He also enters Cleaver’s scrambled thoughts ranging from his triumphant dismantling of the US president to irksome passages from his son’s novel cataloguing Cleaver’s irritating mannerisms; Cleaver’s sexual career, the death of his daughter and the oppressive levels of resentment and regret that have brought him to his mountain retreat.
While his mind races, his body lumbers about, slipping in the snow, twisting his ankle, and getting a painful splinter of wood in his hand. It is a textured telling, this is a three dimensional narrative that lives off the page.

Somewhere out in the snow there is another presence. It could be Cleaver’s paranoia, but instead it is his son. In the closing stages of this lively, intelligent novel of multiple ironies that reiterates the quality of Europa, Destiny and Judge Savage – all very fine novels – Parks introduces several twists and turns, and potential plot developments. In his avoidance of easy resolutions lies the achievement of the Everyman-in-chaos novel his readers were waiting for Parks to write – and he has.