cover image Just Call Me Superhero

Just Call Me Superhero

Alina Bronsky, trans. from the German by Tim Mohr. Europa (Penguin, dist.), $16 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-60945-229-2

The latest novel from Bronsky (The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine) sets out to be a "cruel comic romp," filled with caustic, eccentric folk and ending in a kind of redemption. The main character, a 17-year-old boy named Marek maimed and disfigured after an attack by a Rottweiler, is as corrosive as acid. One day Marek's cold mother, Claudia, tricks him into going to a support group "for cripples." The others in the group, one blind, another in a wheelchair, all afflicted in some way but distinguishable on the page only by their disabilities, come together under the direction of "the guru" who decides to make a film about them. Marek falls for the beautiful Janne, who is in a wheelchair, and is also being pursued by the blind Marlon. The novel takes an abrupt turn when Marek's father dies, and Marek must leave the group to attend the funeral. He meets his young step-brother, whose mother was Marek's au pair and for whom Marek's father left Claudia. The two story lines have little in common, and the resolution at the end of the book is not at all believable, having to do with the identities of the guru and each of the young people in the group. Bronsky's novel strives for absurdist humor but falls short. (Oct.)