DeMarinis ( The Coming Triumph of the Free World ; Heinz Prize-winner Under the Wheat ) has produced a masterpiece in this bittersweet coming-of-age story that re-defines the genre with the best of them. While neither as gritty as Earl Thompson's A Garden of Sand nor as cynical as Catcher in the Rye , the narrative, as related by 10-year-old Trygve Napoli, may remind readers of both. The year is 1943, and the setting is Los Angeles, where Trygve has been reclaimed by his detached mother (``She has a Norwegian fatalism, tough enough to outlast winter.'') now that she has remarried. Trygve has spent lonely years living in Montana with his indifferent Norwegian grandparents and attending a brutal school ``where the pedagogical philosophy was Education Through Fear.'' Now a bed-wetter given to incessant perseveration, Trygve finds himself part of a family that includes his new step-father, the smooth Mitchell Selvage (a milkman and black-market opportunist; schizzy Aunt Ginger; her drunken husband Gerald, a sailor in the Canadian Navy; and his 15-year-old son William. Since their apartment building doesn't permit children, Trygve has learned to hide in a nearby bunker whenever the landlord comes around. Looming large as a backdrop is the War, to which Trygve is connected by a complex fantasy life and his shortwave radio. DeMarinis has created in Trygve a perfect narrator--the child as witness--a character both naive and accepting, and yet skilled in his ironic and perceptive observations. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989 Release date: 09/01/1989 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.