cover image The Good Times Are Killing Me

The Good Times Are Killing Me

Lynda Barry. Real Comet Press, $16.95 (119pp) ISBN 978-0-941104-22-7

Edna Arkins, the young white narrator of this first novel, describes her coming of age in a racially mixed neighborhood and her friendship with Bonna Willis, a black girl. Their camaraderie is against ``the rules'' imposed by others but survives anyway. The novel, written as a series of vignettes, evokes memories of adolescence that many will probably share: the loneliness, the dares, the music lessons, the threats. The reader also catches a glimpse of Edna's family with all their idiosyncrasies. Her cousin Steve, for example, always repeats a particular menacing phrase every time he is alone with her and, as Edna says, ``probably always will . . . even when we are both as old and shriveled up as two ancient pieces of gum stuck under a chair.'' Barry conveys the anguish and confusion of youth discovering that society is riddled with prejudice, and her light touch is balanced by respect for her characters and their problems. The book also includes 18 richly colored illustrations by the author, a syndicated cartoonist. (Nov.)