Reviewed by Norm Goldman
by Phil Kenney
October 5, 2012, ISBN-13: 978-0615685472, Paperback, 274 pages
Phil Kenney’s Radiance is an emotionally and penetrating novel that will resonate with many of us, particularly if we have reached mid-life or beyond.
It is a yarn that is filled with thoughtful observations presented with words that actually sing to us and are so artfully shaped that they move us to new emotional and spiritual heights forcing us to ponder the joys and dark pains that affect every family.
Skillfully utilizing his skills as a psychotherapist, mediation practitioner and poet, Kenney masterfully addresses a wide spectrum of serious and deep subjects including sibling rivalry, family inter-relationships, identity, death and mortality, Alzheimer’s disease, poverty, abuse, living the American dream leading to an emotional and spiritual poverty, loyalty, parental responsibility and failed communication, the legacy of memory and the necessity of forgiveness.
Employing lyrical prose, Kenney narrates the poignantly observed story of a fictional family, the Brennans, as they voyage from poverty to comfort, from one era to the next during the latter half of the last century. Dividing his themes into separate chapters, the author focuses on different members of the Brennan household thus creating a complex oral history wherein time circles backwards and forwards around a series of family events and experiences. The secrets of the family are slowly untangled exposing all of their pain and blemishes or as Kenney reminds us: “stories are wallpaper that hides cracks in the plaster. which of our stories will survive and which will be cast out? These constitute the riddle that is the family testimony.”
In exploring these various themes, Kenney shows an extraordinary wisdom and understanding of human nature, or as he aptly phrases it, “ the frailty of human beings overcome by forces unleashed by the countless acts of generations of individuals desperately trying to make life bend to their will. And as Dr. Larry Christensen, Psychoanalyst and Director of the Zen Center of Portland further asserts, which quotation appears on the back cover of the book: “Phil is able to bring the reader into an intimacy with life that is only possible due to his deep understanding of psychological life and his own spiritual mastery.”
In addition, not only does the novel move forward on the vividly powerful stories but also on the power of the various deftly portrayed characters who are never merely props or caricatures. These impressively diverse characters are in essence very believable who never insult the intelligence of either the reader or themselves-an essential ingredient of a well-crafted novel.
Phil Kenney lives with his wife and two teenage sons in Portland, Oregon. He is also the author of four books of poetry, including Hours of Blue and Hymns for the Speechless. He informs us on his bio page that “without equivocation, much of Radiance felt inspired and written from a place within that I cannot locate.”
About the reviewer: Norm Goldman, B.A. LL.L, is the Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures, which he created in 2002.’ Practicing law for over 35 years enabled Norm to transfer and apply to book reviewing his many skills that he had perfected during his career in the legal profession and as a result he became a prolific freelance book reviewer & author interviewer.
Originally published at Book Pleasures.