Sam and His Brother Len

John Manderino, Author Academy Chicago Publishers $19.95 (248p) ISBN 978-0-89733-407-5
Conjuring up a curious blend of Studs Lonigan and Huckleberry Finn with an occasional echo of Franny and Zooey , this first novel is a warmly affecting chronicle of male pubescence. Sometimes with humor, often with anguish and always with sensitivity, this sparkling little fiction details, from early boyhood to the threshold of manhood, the coming of age of suburban Chicago brothers Sam and Len Rossini. Manderino tells their story from varying points of view, with the chapters dedicated to Sam observed mostly from the third person and those focusing on kid brother Len related in the first person. Sam's ongoing struggle to overcome his faulty self-image is traced from childhood daydreams of becoming a star athlete and unruly thoughts about nuns to his quest for fulfillment as an academic. At college, he is a social misfit who fails at acting, bumbles as a political-protest minstrel, seeks solace in Buddhism and, bedeviled by a subconscious drive to play the victim, gradually turns to alcohol. Meanwhile, as ``The Flea,'' terror of the neighborhood hockey games, Len raises goldfish and learns to fend for himself, maturing into the more durable of the pair. Bringing alive young ambition, fumbling sexuality, broken dreams and hope, Manderino's magically realized novel succeeds equally well as entertainment, psychological study and morality play, and deserves consideration for every reading list. (July)
Reviewed on: 08/29/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
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