by Andrew M. Greeley ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 29, 1998
A richly plotted, entertaining, if credulity-stretching, tale follows Charles ""Chucky"" Cronin, an Irish-Catholic Chicagoan, during his service in postwar Germany. In a lively and engaging early section, Greeley (Irish Lace, 1996, etc.) sketches Chucky's Chicago youth with a casual facility, featuring his family, and particularly his parents, April and John, and their Depression-strained but durable love for one another. With sprightly doses of ""Irish"" family humor, and a series of misadventures that recall the work of John Irving in their unexpected audacity and originality, Greeley moves the tale along, writing with an uncritical fondness of the period. Chucky rescues his prom date from drowning, and leads his football team to victory in the final seconds of the Big Came, but neither effort earns him much pride: he routinely dismisses these events as the result of luck. Drafted toward the end of WWII, and sent to Germany as a member of the Constabulary--a sort of occupation police force--he falls in love with Trudi, a woman with a misleadingly Nazi-tinged past; happens upon a spiritual partnership with Brigitta, who awaits the return of her husband Kurt from a Russian prison camp; and discovers a black-market overseen by shady Americans, which he single-handedly unmasks. He also spirits Trudi and her family away from the reaches of the Constabulary. All of this is suspenseful fun, but Chucky's unrelenting self-deprecation, his wearying insistence that he's just an innocent rube before God, seems false, and finally taxes the reader's credulity. And when Chucky eventually upsets all evil, beds the girl, affirms America's generosity, becomes rich (as do his parents), and gets a promotion, that credulity is exhausted. Greeley's familiar spiritual concerns--human guilt, one's relation to God, and personal integrity--dominate Chucky's reactions to these vigorously plotted events. But the incidents seem to leave his character untouched, making for a rather unmoving coming-of-age-tale.
Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1998
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998
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