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IN BRIEF

Fiction

February 19, 1995|DICK RORABACK

HOME FOR THE DAY by Anderson Ferrell (Knopf: $20; 147 pp.) Beautiful stuff, this, a work of nearly supernal sensitivity. On the surface, a book about an abusive father, a gay son, a possessive grandmother, a feisty domestic; about confusion and guilt; about a fishing trip and a neglected graveyard. Underneath, a book about passion and compassion, about acceptance and rejection. This is Anderson Ferrell's second novel--his first, "Where She Was," was roundly and deservedly praised--and it must have been hard to write. The unnamed narrator, back from the city to his small Carolina hometown to tend the ashes of his lover, remembers with pain but no regret the discovery of his homosexuality: "On hot summer days when all the other boys were swimming or playing baseball or going howling-wild into the woods," he goes about what he understands to be "women's work." "Since the time I discovered I wasn't a girl, but gave up anyway trying to join the race of boys, I buried things." In lonely exaltation he creates, in his doting grandmother's back yard, a cemetery for bugs and frogs and mice, an exquisite resting place with tiny coffins, flowers . . . "a place where care is taken and beauty happens." A place his truck driver father kicks to hell in the definitive scene, the inevitable alienation, on the day he was, finally, to go fishing with Dad, "the day called 'One of These Days,' come at last." Ferrell has a rare talent for blowing away the fuzz and seeing things as they are, sometimes ugly but more often wondrous: "A Baptist face, hard and holy"; grandmother's house "with its polished oak drinking up what little light there is as though it were lemon oil"; his mother recognizing that her crude boyfriend is "a future embarrassment" but oh, that green '39 Chevy convertible; his lover's death from AIDS; finally, "a feeble breeze blows once, writing an epitaph in soft italics across the surface of the pond."

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