Thirty-something schoolteacher Andy DeMarco, happily married for ten years, is forced to take a journey into his past when he's asked by the police to identify the body of his Uncle Paul.
Andy and his sister, Angela, are raised by their young, quietly loving mother and her consistently appearing brother Paul. Their father, merely a vague shadow from their past who left when Andy was five, never impacted the children the way larger-than-life Uncle does.
When their mother gets a live-in boyfriend, Ed, who spanks Angela for spilling milk then threatens the children that if they tell their mother he'll beat her up, it is Uncle to whom Andy turns. After Ed suffers a "terrible fall down the stairs," he quietly moves out and life goes on. Uncle is always there – for father-son school activities, dancing in the kitchen with their mother and making her smile, always around when they need him most.
Then one horrible day, Angela is raped in the woods. "Shouldn't we call the police?" Andy wonders. "Call Uncle," replies his mother. Something happens between Andy and Uncle that night, a test of manhood that Andy feels he's failed and an event creates a rift in the family that will never, ever be mended. But Uncle is too much to ever forget - too full of love and advice and good-natured devotion.
It's been twenty years now since Andy has seen Uncle, but it seems like just yesterday. All of the memories come rushing back, the good and the bad, and Andy cycles through them, compelled to search for just who Uncle really was. In Saying Uncle, we move between Andy's duties to his dead Uncle and his memories of the past, all flowing seamlessly together.
A few years ago, I picked up a copy of a book called The Bleeding Season by a new author Greg F. Gifune. I was stunned then at the power of this young author's work, and Gifune hasn't lost an ounce of that outstanding talent. His writing style is immaculate; his prose, descriptions, dialogue, and atmosphere are impeccable whose works are not to be missed (especially if you can find a copy of The Bleeding Season for under fifty dollars).
Saying Uncle is a short novel at a mere 182 pages that I read in only a few hours, so deep was my interest and concentration. There's a nice introduction to the book by author Tom Piccirilli, who also mentions how great Gifune's work is. Gifune sets a standard that is far beyond the reach of most of today's writers.