Eric Gabriel, Author Mercury House $18.95 (234p) ISBN 978-0-916515-54-6
New York City's riverfront slum, Hell's Kitchen, is the setting of this authentically gritty but subtly sensitive first novel about the coming-of-age of two young boys. Fatherless 10-year-old friends Matthew and Justin are accustomed to taking care of themselves on the grimy streets. Matthew's mother Marjorie is a former cabaret singer succumbing to the grip of alcoholism; during a shoplifting attempt at Woolworth's, she is rescued by Sal, a Hispanic who works at the lunch counter. Sal enters their lives, eager to be a father to Matthew, but Marjorie distrusts his violent temper and a past that includes witchcraft and crime. Justin lives with his mother Carlotta, a nurse, and begins to work at his Uncle Frank's garage. With both women portrayed as harried and ineffectual, the boys inhabit a chiefly male world where sexuality is either auto- or homoerotic. Among the men who provide role models are the crudely macho garage mechanics, the homosexuals who huddle in the dank pier buildings, the ``Bloodhounds,'' a gang of racially violent kids, and a knot of gentle homeless blacks who cook vats of dirt-spiced soup. When Matthew is drawn to Asa, a Jewish boy from Brooklyn whose father abuses him, Justin's jealousy erupts in a savage fashion. While sparing no unsavory detail, Gabriel ends his story of bleak lives on a credibly affirmative note. His depiction of his young protagonists is perceptive and memorable. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
Genre: Fiction
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