Atria, Mar 2004, 24.00, 352 pp.
Language teacher Alfie Budd leaves Hong Kong after several years there to return home to London fueled by grief for a lost loved one. However, London may swing, but no where near the way Alfie remembers the town. Everything is different, but mostly his parents act strangely. Alfie thought they shared a loving relationship, but now his father piteously discos with a foreign au pair younger than his son while his mother has a love affair with her rose garden.
Stunned, Alfie fears he will never capture what he once had in Hong Kong so he wanders through meaningless sexual encounters with his students (once a taboo, but more acceptable in this amoral 1993 London). As Alfie wonders about living without love, he descend deeper into a cesspool of immorality that gives him no solace except through the wizened teachings of Mr. Chang.
Alfie is a solid center of this well written character study that leads to fans feeling empathy towards the lead protagonist still suffering from his loss and coping through hollow encounters. The secondary cast enables the readers and Alfie to see that life without love is empty. ONE FOR MY BABY raises philosophical issues of how to live (not just survive) and forge or keep relationships after a loved one dies yet the entertaining story line fails to truly respond to the concerns posed by Tony Parsons; thus readers will ask what's it all about Tony?
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner