The Pact

Walter J. Roers, Author
Walter J. Roers, Author New Rivers Press $14.95 (180p) ISBN 978-0-89823-204-2
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In his powerfully evoked debut, Roers portrays the childhood experiences that shape the lives of two brothers, Michael and Ron Dougherty, and their friend Ricky Stedman, during the late 1940s in Minneapolis. The world Roers describes radiates with youthful innocence as the boys rush to buy ""suicide cokes,"" build snow castles, attend free-dish night at the movies and ""car hop,"" a form of water-skiing on ice. This complacent yet fragile state soon shatters, however, as Michael and Ron come to recognize the ""fallibility and torment of adults""; their father has a drinking problem. Whereas Ron responds with anger and even plans a water-balloon raid on the local bar, Michael and his infinitely understanding mother accept Pat Dougherty's alcoholism with sadness and hope. Unfortunately, Pat's drinking problem increases, and he becomes more abusive. As Mrs. Dougherty struggles to make the toughest decision of her life about the man she can't help loving, Michael clings to his unique friendship with Ricky, a delicate and tender-hearted youth who harbors a terrifying secret about his own family. Longing for stability and a caring environment, the two boys confide in one another and make a pact that Michael will soon regret. Roers shows great skill at maintaining the momentum of his storytelling and the tension between his characters. Through smooth prose, a splash of humor and concise but effective details, he sweeps the reader onto empathetic, emotional white water, joining these sensitively portrayed characters as they cascade from youthful insouciance to rage, pity and remorse. (Aug.)
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