Friday, July 16, 2021

FFB: Brewster, Mark Slouka

Mark Slouka's BREWSTER takes place in the blue-collar town of Brewster, NY in 1968. But 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 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. 



Margot Kinberg said...

'Real' was exactly the word I was thinking of as I read your review, Patti. It sounds very gut-level, and that has its own power.

Rick Robinson said...

You seem to read a lot of “hard to read” books, Patti. Since I read for pleasure, I guess I avoid such.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Wasn't Brewster supposedly the home of Marlo Thomas's character on THAT GIRL?

Yes, my mind is a mass of trivia.

Todd Mason said...

Well, there's the stylization of noir, which neo-noirs indulge in to a fault at times, and there's the basic tragedy of noir, which is where the heft of the originals were (and, really, remain)...the lack of options, sometimes (usually) honed to a very blatant starkly choice, perhaps against one's better judgment but impossible to escape. As opposed to how cool it is to watch the beautiful losers fail. The desperation is certainly felt in the Real noir, and similar work.

Hence the kinship of a lot of noir to horror...and of Angry Young People stories and others more of less in the picaresque tradition as well, as this reads like...facing the life we find ourselves in, at least as much as any we've made for ourselves.

There is pleasure to be had, of course, in reading how others cope with the lives to whatever degree thrust upon them, as ours have been to us, even when we helped matters along when lucky or inattentive...

George said...

I ordered BREWSTER after I read your fine review!

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