The Boy Who Went Away

Eli Gottlieb, Author
Eli Gottlieb, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-312-15070-9
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-0-09-978061-8
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Adolescent Denny Graubert's firm belief that his is ""one of the craziest, bizarre, most twisted families that ever lived"" lies at the heart of this engrossing first novel. With the inquisitiveness of a child, the insight of an adult and the wit of a survivor, Denny tells the story of the four pivotal months during the summer of 1967 in which his family struggles to keep the state of New Jersey from condemning his autistic older brother to a mental institution. As Americans lose a war in Vietnam and the Yankees lose a war in the Bronx, Denny's brother, Fad, does something ""spectacular, embarrassing, humiliating"" every time he goes out in public; his mother, embroiled in an affair with one of Fad's many doctors, moves ""around the house looking like an oil painting of herself;"" and his father remains drunk for 164 days straight behind ""the rattling panes of the New York Times."" Trying to make sense of it all, Denny yearns for attention and normalcy and spies relentlessly on his family and neighbors. Gottlieb records the utterly confounding and inevitable plunge into adulthood with bold clarity. He depicts the spoken and unspoken language of cruelty and love in a family with confidence and poetry. But he is at his very best in the freshness of his imagery, creating a world so vivid and memorable the reader finds all five senses delightfully engaged in experiencing it. (Jan.)
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