The Year of the Zinc Penny

Rick DeMarinis, Author W. W. Norton & Company $17.95 (173p) ISBN 978-0-393-02758-7
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
Paperback - 978-0-06-097339-1
Hardcover - 283 pages - 978-0-8161-5056-4
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