Jason "Say" Sayer, the central character of Inman Majors' debut novel, Swimming in Sky, is not the first confused young man ever portrayed in a novel. However, as a child of the 1970s, Say's story and his words will ring true with any number of people whose doubts and mental torments come from some uniquely American factors: the empty facade of suburban life, the emotional fallout of divorce and the weight of familial expectations, for starters.

It would be easy to dismiss Say as a slacker (three years out of college, jobless and living with his mother and her boyfriend) if he weren't such a close-to-home character: a former high school basketball player, a bright kid who got a Vanderbilt degree, someone who has a few close friends but is something of an outsider in almost any crowd. Majors' mostly laconic, sometimes poignant narration allows us to see through Say's eyes as he attempts to move out of his inertia. An almost Walker Percy-esque spirituality bubbles up from time to time during his summer of discontent.

Says' hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, (site of the University of Tennessee, where the author's uncle, Johnny Majors, was once the football coach) will remind readers of college towns everywhere with its fern bars and football fanatics. But only a Southern boy would have friends named Pel, Trick, Jimbo and Bobsmith and the sounds of Appalachia ringing through his conversations. In this promising debut, Say's catharsis proves painful, but readers will find some good laughs and remarkable insights along the way.

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