Friday, July 10, 2020

BREWSTER, Mark Slouka

Mark Slouka's BREWSTER takes place in the blue-collar town of Brewster, NY in 1968. But as Slouka makes a point of saying in a wonderful interview with Edward Champion on the BAT SEGUNDO podcast, 1968 was very different for blue-collar teenagers in a blue-collar town than for those slightly older at that time and of more means. Only gradually does the outer world work its way into the story of four kids in upstate New York.

Its the inner world that Slouka is concerned with here anyway. It's the past, not the present, that has a enormous affect on these lives.

Jon Mosher has always felt like an outsider in his town because of his parents’ roots as German-Jewish émigrés and the accidental death of his older brother. The death of his brother has destroyed his family and especially his mother, who like the mother in ORDINARY PEOPLE seems to hold him responsible for being the one who survived. Spending your life dodging your mother's disdain for you takes its toll.

He begins to run track on his high-school team and becomes friends with: Frank Krapinski, a Christian, and a talented athlete; volatile Ray Cappiciano, who comes to school bearing the bruises of constant fistfights; and Karen Dorsey, who falls for Ray.

Ray’s alcoholic father, a WWII veteran possessed of a raging temper, takes an interest in Jon. And Jon's damaged mother has a fondness for Ray, confounding both boys.

The four teens bond in their desire to leave their damaged lives and working class town behind. It is only gradually they see that you can never leave the past behind. This book is about the solace, the support, and the gift of friendship and loyalty among teens who feel they are powerless.

This was a hard book to read in many ways and it is certainly more noir than more books touted as such.  But every moment felt real. Highly recommended. 


George said...

I'm always interested in coming-of-age novels. I loved Rob Reiner's STAND BY ME (based on Stephen King's "The Body") which explores a group of kids and their adventures.

Jeff Meyerson said...

It does sound interesting. Brewster is in Putnam County, only 60 miles north of NYC.

Margot Kinberg said...

It does sound powerful, Patti. It also sounds realistic, which really appeals to me. Glad you enjoyed it.

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