The Parlor Free Recommended

When: Tue., June 2, 7 p.m. 2009

Joe Meno is the featured reader. The Caspers, the family at the heart of Joe Meno's moving new novel, The Great Perhaps (Norton), are all trying to connect with something. The father, Jonathan, a middle-aged University of Chicago paleontologist, is obsessed with his race against a despised rival to discover a live specimen of a giant squid thought to be extinct (tellingly, a creature that exists in solitude most of its life). His wife, Madeline, an animal behaviorist at the U. of C., is dealing with a failed experiment involving pigeons (the females are being raped and killed by the males) as well as Jonathan's emotional distance. Teenage daughter Amelia is a beret-wearing anticapitalist revolutionary wannabe, while her younger sister, Thisbe, seeks a connection with God. Meanwhile, Jonathan's father, Henry, lives in a nursing home, where he's trying to "vanish"—each day eating less, communicating less, and ridding himself of more possessions. As they all come to realize that what they've put their faith in can also fail them, they find that the solace and meaning they've searched for in the greater world can be found much closer to home—if they just pay attention. --Jerome Ludwig

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