The Boy on the Green Bicycle

Margaret Diehl, Author Soho Press $25 (368p) ISBN 978-1-56947-149-4
In dissecting pivotal moments of her tragic New Jersey childhood (death and mental illness cripple her seemingly glamorous Southern-rooted family), novelist Diehl (Me and You, etc.) pieces together a sensual portrait of the artist as a young woman. Her domestic imagery, simultaneously soothing and uncanny, brings readers directly and joyfully into the 1950s and '60s household of her publishing executive father, effortlessly graceful mother and three siblings. Diehl respects her childhood self and takes care not to adulterate the girl's point of view with the writerly woman's: ""Daddy in a suit. The warm pinks, aquas, and ice blues of my mother's clothes, her bright lipstick."" The details leading up to the tragedies unfold with exceptional narrative restraint, infused with, but not rushed by, emotion. The death of her brother (killed on his bicycle), suicide of her father and despair of her mother (""I learned to make her drinks, and I made them strong. Mommy magic"") register as the book continues and are colored by the child's developing sexuality and depression. A brief, spell-breaking final chapter summarizes Diehl's adult attempts to deal with her childhood trauma, and ends with a sentimental poem. If Diehl sometimes waxes too reverent about her past, the wonderfully rendered precocious enthusiasms of her childhood self always outrun her nostalgia. The story of her family's survival is testament to her mother's strength, and to her own. Agent, Carol Mann. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
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