Squat: A Novel

Taylor Field, Author . Broadman & Holman $14.99 (235p) ISBN 978-0-8054-3292-3

Field (Mercy Streets ), a pastor on Manhattan's Lower East Side, sets his first novel in a homeless community just blocks from Wall Street. Characters with names like Bonehead, Unc and Ratchet sleep in abandoned buildings (or squats, thus the name), subsisting from one meal (or one drink) to the next in what Field paints believably as an almost inescapable universe worlds away from the lives of middle-class New Yorkers. The story follows 24 hours in the life of Squid, an obsessive-compulsive young man who ran away from home years ago and is now in danger of losing his life over a drug deal gone bad. He wanders the streets, begs for money, fights with friends and visits a local mission where he eventually prays a simple prayer to great dramatic effect. But he is never without fear and always on the run. While Field may know this world well, the characters he creates are not compelling enough to get readers to care very much about what happens to them. The dialogue is decent (if a few of the witnessing scenes feel improbable), but the story moves far too slowly to an unsatisfying conclusion. While this could have made a fine short story, there's not enough material for a book. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/31/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!