A father and son with an unusually close relationship wrestle with a hardscrabble life in Manhattan and the consequences of crime in Berlin's thoughtful, somewhat stagy second novel (after Headlock ). Ben Chiziver, a bright sophomore at prestigious Stuyvesant High School, only wants the best for himself and his father, Jared, a handsome "player" with the ladies. Father and son jog together, eat together and have heart-to-heart talks about life, love and school. But there's a twist: Dad pays for their West Village apartment by picking the pockets of tourists and businessmen. Around the same time that Jared stops playing the field and falls for Anna Partager, a photographer of dead people, Ben has his first homosexual encounter, with a boy he meets on a solo run one night. This leads to a grisly bashing incident and lands Ben in the hospital, driving his father to commit a brutal act of vengeance. The attack dictates an immediate "vacation" for Jared, Ben and Anna to Miami, ramping the plot into overdrive as the robbery of an armored truck is planned and skillfully executed. But when the three escape to Key West, their luck finally runs out. For all the character-driven, on-the-run entertainment the novel affords readers, it feels as if Berlin has yet to display the full force of his narrative abilities. Intelligent and promising, this sharp, simmering sophomore effort feels like the calm before the storm. Agent, Robert Lescher. (Mar. 9)
Forecast: Crossover sales to the gay market should help move copies of this deserving novel.
Release date: 04/01/2004