How to Find Your Way in the Dark

Derek B. Miller. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-358-26960-1

This terrific coming-of-age story, a prequel to Miller’s Norwegian by Night, follows Sheldon Horowitz from his parents’ deaths before his 13th birthday in 1937 to his departure a decade later from the isolated New England village where he and Lenny Bernstein, his best friend and the only other Jewish kid he knows, lead lives largely sheltered from both anti-Semitism and Jewish culture. Sheldon, a tough kid with outdoor skills cultivated during a childhood spent hunting and trapping with his father, a shell-shocked WWI vet, decides, correctly, that the accident that killed his dad as they drove home from his mother’s funeral was murder, and devotes his teen years to seeking vengeance while living with an uncle. This quest spirals into grimly entertaining capers, including a jewel heist in the burgeoning borscht belt resorts of the Catskills. Diverting subplots track America’s entry into WWII and the birth of modern stand-up comedy, as shown by Lenny’s hilarious forays into showbiz. Readers will root for Sheldon, a memorable survivor, every step of the way. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (July)