“A Family’s Loss” Is Second Novel for UNH Thompson School Professor

“A Family’s Loss” Is Second Novel for UNH Thompson School Professor

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Family love, family secrets, and family mythologies are at the heart of the new novel by Tim Barretto, a professor of community leadership at the University of New Hampshire’s Thompson School of Applied Science. “A Family’s Loss” is the second novel by Barretto, who is co-founder of the school’s community leadership program. 

“A Family’s Loss” (Beech River Books, 2013) tells the story of “what happens when love in a family either isn’t present or isn’t a healthy kind of love,” Barretto says.  

Set in a fictional New Hampshire town, “A Family’s Loss” is told from the point of view of Virgil, the oldest of four children, as he reflects on events of what he believed was a healthy childhood in the 1960s. When tragedy strikes in the 1970s, Virgil must question everything he assumed about his family and examine the past for answers. Sifting through his earliest memories, Virgil makes an uncomfortable discovery about his mother and two of his siblings, Jake and Lydia. Barretto writes: 

“It was not until dinner on the day of Lydia's First Communion that I finally began to put everything together and glimpse the truth of what was going on: Mother treated Jake differently not because she loved him more than the rest of us but because of just the opposite. Mother expected Jake to fail. And this was acceptable to her as long as his failures did not involve the rest of us. But when he attacked Lydia—however justified he might have been—it was something Mother absolutely could not abide. 

“Later, when Jake tried to run away and everyone wondered how he could do such a thing, I thought I understood.” 

Barretto describes the book as posing universal questions: “How much of my understanding of my past is real? How much of it is family mythology and how much have I created myself?” he says. 

In addition to teaching and writing, Barretto has spent most of his adult life pursuing ways to eliminate child abuse. “A Family’s Loss,” which deals with elements of abuse in its plot, draws on this work. “In some ways, the research for this book has been going on for 35 years,” Barretto says. 

Barretto will read from “A Family’s Loss” at a book signing event Thursday, March 28, 2013, at 12:45 p.m. in Barton Hall on the UNH campus in Durham. Light refreshments will be served by the Thompson School culinary arts and nutrition program, and books will be available for purchase at that event; they can also be purchased from the publisher (www.beechriverbooks.com/id42.html) or by calling 888-874-6904. Books are also available at the UNH bookstore, the Durham Book Exchange, and RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth.

Barretto teaches writing, speaking, and literature at the University of New Hampshire’s Thompson School of Applied Science. He and colleague Kate Hanson co-founded the community leadership program at the school in 2001 as a way of helping students interested in becoming activists and community leaders to find and develop their voices. In addition to his previous novel, “Searching for Joy,” his creative work includes short stories published in literary journals and a one-act play about bullying that was performed at several schools in New Hampshire’s Strafford County. He has served as a passionate advocate for children. He lives in Dover,  with his wife, Mary.