A Thinking Man’s Bully

Michael Adelberg. Permanent, $26 (190p) ISBN 978-1-57962-228-2
Adelberg taps a headline-grabbing, hot-button issue in his debut about a New Jersey man realizing the ramifications of his former violent behavior on friends and family. Matt Duffy, father to teenage son Jack, finds himself in a quandary. His own best friend, Martin, ended his life 23 years ago after Matt physically bullied him in high school. Now, Jack has attempted suicide at 15 after becoming an academic underachiever and the school tormentor, just like his father before him. Matt hopes to publish a book about his atonement for his past despicable behavior, but in the meantime, he shares cathartic discussions with his therapist, Lisa. These sessions allow Adelberg to effectively backtrack to Matt’s school days as the neighborhood terrorizer of a string of classmates and his taking up with a succession of unsuspecting girls. The book’s clunky structure and initially unclear point of view takes some getting used to, but once up to speed, readers will be enlightened by this capable, contemporary drama about the life of a repentant tyrant and his attempts to save his son. The author, a “reformed high school troublemaker,” offers a fresh perspective on bullying by seamlessly intertwining the actions, the results, and the lasting consequences of brutality into a story brimming with personality and narrative brio. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/2011
Release date: 12/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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