cover image A Sound Like Thunder

A Sound Like Thunder

Sonny Brewer, . . Ballantine, $23.95 (273pp) ISBN 978-0-345-47633-3

To tell a classic, if overwrought bildungsroman—complete with teenage boy, quiet younger brother, alcoholic father, possibly cheating mother and a boat—Brewer returns to Fairhope, Ala., the setting of his 2005 debut, The Poet of Tolstoy Park . As WWII rages in Europe (Pearl Harbor is still a sleepy navy outpost), 16-year-old Rove MacNee's Granny Wooten, who always gave him "the right book at the right time," dies. On the day of her funeral, Rove witnesses his violent, alcoholic father, ship captain Dominus MacNee, threatening his German neighbor, Josef Unruh, with a knife. Soon, Dominus, a locally notorious philanderer, is in jail on attempted murder charges, leaving Rove to figure out whether his mother, Lillian, is having an affair with Josef. As Rove tumbles out of childhood, Josef offers him a fixer-upper boat, and Rove goes to live on it, taking comfort in his family's tradition of fishing, sailing and living on the sea. Though the story can buckle beneath the weight of its sentimentality, Brewer's fans will enjoy his graceful crafting of characters and the budding romance between Rove and Anna Pearl, a schoolmate with a "fire-bearing spirit." (On sale Aug. 1)