In St. Patrick's Bed (Forge Books, Tom Doherty Associates, 224pp., $31.95 cloth, ISBN: 0765300435), Terence M. Green's autobiographical protagonist embarks on another journey into America in search of family roots. In this follow-up to Shadow of Ashland, he chronicles modern Americana and Interstate culture with obsessive and careful detail, including every meal eaten on the trip, along with tips on how to get AAA discounts, as well as what was paid at each hotel, as though rating hotels and assessing fast-food meals were adventures in themselves.
The book is saturated with travel guidebook commentaries and a mainly unrelated variety of encyclopedic asides, ranging from the history of drive-in theatres from 1930 to 1958, information on how to find wedding chapels for Las Vegas at the public library, tuition statistics and costs at Antioch College and Wright State U., the development of Delco Batteries, and a chronicle of 19th century epidemics and burials at a defunct Irish Catholic cemetery underneath Toronto's Cabbagetown district.
When there is actual plot development, we feel the angst of a man who grieves his father's recent death, while he travels to meet and assure himself of the good character of his beloved stepson's biological father. He journeys both physically and emotionally to confront the ghosts of his wife's first marriage, lay his father's spirit to rest, and resolve his own infertility problem.
Perhaps best described as a man's book, this is a modern autobiographical novel of extended family, junk food and Elvis weddings, with information on fertility problems aging male baby boomers may benefit from. There is little of the sense of place or past that gave Shadow of Ashland it's appeal, and the value of the book as a sequel is tenuous. With so much research material placed in the body of the book there is little room for romance and little left to the imagination of the reader. ò