Heart of a Family

By Doug Finn

Subjects: Fiction
Paperback : 9781438450742, 271 pages, June 1985
Hardcover : 9780873958615, 271 pages, June 1985

Alternative formats available from:


"I got a damn hip musician, a poet, and . . . well, a spoiled kid, I guess."

Jesse Landow, while recovering from a heart attack, describes his three sons in this quote. This sentence from this moving novel indicates that members of the Landow family see each other in categories. But as the novel unfolds, it becomes clear that the thrust of the action is toward working around those categories—divisions of attitude towards patriotism, status, education, and lifestyle that have kept apart the older, conservative father and his sons struggling toward manhood in separate ways. Marty the eldest, seeks to use his music as a way to dodge the actual combat of the hated war in Vietnam. The adolescent David comes to maturity as a writer through the encouragement of his Aunt Roe and begins to share his writings with a father who starts to accept him. Gary, the youngest, struggles with his obsessions, his fears, and his physical cowardice as he begins to find his own bravery and courage in the face of attack.

While Jesse's heart attack is central to his confrontations with his sons and their values, it also occasions a long overdue working on his relationship with his wife Mary. The victim of a miscarriage and a woman bitter for years about Jesse's affairs, she gains a fresh appreciation of him as he confronts death, and she begins to think of absence from him as a crashing emptiness. In this context, the book's title refers not only to the attack itself, but to the rushing of blood, to the urge toward resolution that affects all members of the family.

Heart of a Family was awarded First Place in the Associated Writing Programs Award Series in the Novel Competition for 1983. Ted Solotaroff, final judge of the contest and senior editor at Harper and Row cited the novel's "narrative interest" and "artistic maturity." He said:

"The novel is distinguished by an unusual ability to portray each of the five members of the family accurately, sensitively, and movingly. I seldom see novels. . . with as much grasp of and respect for the family life of middle America. Moving steadily and with increasing depth from one member to another, Mr. Finn. . . creates a novel with interest and light."

Doug Finn was born 37 years ago in North Hollywood, California. Following a stint in the Air Force and three years with the Tucson Police Department, he enrolled at the University of Arizona to prepare for a career in the ministry. There, a lifelong affection for reading and writing persuaded him to transfer to the Creative Writing Program, where he received his MFA degree in 1981. Finn now lives in a mobile home surrounded by granite boulders, junipers, scrub oak, and squaw bushes in Prescott, Arizona, with his wife Kris and their two small children.