Home and Away

Peter G. Filene, Author
Peter G. Filene, Author Zoland Books $19.95 (322p) ISBN 978-0-944072-22-6
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
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Historian Filene's ( Him/Her/Self ) deft first novel is a coming-of-age tale that doubles as an allegory of the hazards of historiography. The year 1951 proves momentous for Murray Baum, a New York City teenager and a veritable pack rat (he collects baseball cards, cigar bands and much more). Now, it seems, he's collecting crises as well. First his father moves out, and Murray is unsure of the real reason. Have his father's superiors at the publishing company where he works temporarily transferred him to California for refusing to sign a loyalty oath? Is his father having an affair? Then there are the ups and downs of Murray's friendships, his own romances and, finally, the dreaded junior-year research paper in history. Prompted by his teacher, Mr. Sklar, Murray writes about his family's past, titling his paper ``Truth and Consequences.'' Sklar voices what may well be the author's views about his craft: ``Historians objectify memory. But that doesn't mean they write the truth.'' As he examines a pack of memories, including his own, Murray discovers a far more complicated picture of his family than he had imagined. Though Murray and his friends occasionally threaten to devolve into pale imitations of Holden Caulfield, Filene individuates his characters through dialogue that is wistful, optimistic, anxious and even flippant, and his fine debut is bound to stir memories of one's own growing up. (Sept.)
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