With House of Sand and Fog, his National Book Award-nominated novel, Andre Dubus III demonstrated his mastery of the complexities of character and desire. In this earlier novel he captures a roiling time in American history and the coming-of-age of a boy who must decide between desire, ambition, and duty.
In the summer of 1967, Leo Suther has one more year of high school to finish and a lot more to learn. He's in love with the beautiful Allie Donovan who introduces him to her father, Chick — a construction foreman and avowed Communist. Soon Leo finds himself in the midst of a consuming love affair and an intense testing of his political values. Chick's passionate views challenge Leo's perspective on the escalating Vietnam conflict and on just where he stands in relation to the new people in his life. Throughout his — and the nation's — unforgettable "summer of love," Leo is learning the language of the blues, which seem to speak to the mourning he feels for his dead mother, his occasionally distant father, and the youth which is fast giving way to manhood.
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“Affecting.... A gentle and winning first novel.... Dubus is a sympathetic and compassionate chronicler of ordinary lives.”–Publishers WeeklyFrom Kirkus Reviews:
A thin-blooded debut novel that follows a young man through the summer of his 18th birthday. Dubus (the story collection The Cage Keeper, 1989) moves through the same New England backwaters as his father and speaks in tones of similar gloom, but without the depth and restraint that this territory demands. Leo Sutter is just beginning to piece things together. Done with school but not ready for college, he works as carpenter by day and plays the blues harmonica by night, and doesn't take the talk of riots and Vietnam very seriously. It's 1967. His girlfriend's father is a Communist and has a lot to say, but Leo is more interested in his own songs and his mother's letters. Although she died when Leo was five, Mrs. Sutter wrote him a sheaf of poems and notes that his father has just turned over, as a kind of inheritance. Here, Leo finds the beginning of his own story--the circumstances that enclose his origin and his fate. Despite some highly melodramatic scenarios, Dubus manages to keep the volume pretty low throughout--too much so, in fact. This is essentially a novel of discovery and change, but we're not shown how the discoveries register or what exactly precipitates the transformation. At the end, Leo goes forth in search of a new life, but it's hard to see a connection between this final departure and what's preceded it. The narrative, as fine as it is, ultimately has a rather hollow ring--and needs badly to encase something more than it has been given. Rather flat and wide of the mark: a disappointment. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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