A Door in the Ocean, by David McGlynn

In his sparkling new collection of essays—presented as a memoir after some adept editing—David McGlynn wrestles with some of the same fierce angels that haunted his debut collection of short stories, The End of the Straight and Narrow. Both books bear the mark of a serious craftsman; their paragraphs hold the reader with lyric and narrative power.

A champion swimmer, McGlynn found himself adrift as he wrestled with the undertows of adolescence. Before the final failure of his parents’ marriage, McGlynn’s father had offered to return to the family home if his wife would agree to start attending church with him. Having recently had a religious experience with another woman, he wanted Christ to be the center of his family’s life and insisted that his wife become born again. When she refused to take part in what she regarded as her husband’s hypocrisy, it was a deal breaker. And it allowed the straying husband to blame the failure of the marriage on his wife’s recalcitrance.

The divorce of his parents when he was 12 and the murder of his best friend when he was 15—a horrific, inexplicable and unsolved crime—were watershed moments of McGlynn’s formation. Much of this book concerns the author’s efforts to connect the dots between brute happenstance and the meaning of life—an enterprise that revisits the predicament of Job of old. Sometimes the dots just won’t connect; sometimes what is senseless remains steadfast in its senselessness.