Wednesday, October 02, 2013

First Wednesday Book Review: BREWSTER, Mark Slouka

Mark Slouka's BREWSTER takes place in the blue-collar town of Brewster, NY in 1968. But as he 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 distain for you takes its toll.

He begins to run track on his high-school team and becomes friends with Frank Krapinski, a Christian and 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 especially 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 noir.  But every moment felt real. Highly recommended. 

For more book reviews, see Barrie Summy.


Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - It sounds like a very deep and interesting character exploration. Thanks for sharing this.

Sarah Laurence said...

I like books with well developed characters and depth. Thanks for the intro to an author new to me.

Ron Scheer said...

No doubt a lovely book. As a boy growing up on an isolated farm, I could never connect with stories about marginalized town kids who befriend and find solace in one another. Was not part of my experience and just seemed fictional.

Barrie said...

Highly recommended? That makes me want to read it! It sounds like a tough read that's worth it. Thanks for reviewing, Patti.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Good review, Patti. Sounds like a powerful theme.

As an only child growing up in urban and suburban neighborhoods, and being the "new kid" in school, I can attest to the fact that one can feel isolated while in the middle of humanity. Finding that circle of special friends is so important to teens!

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

I'm not sure about this one! I don't want to remember 1968! I'm having trouble finding male authors I like, too!