Guy's excruciatingly literal third novel will tell you everything you ever wanted to know--and quite a bit more...

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SECOND BROTHER

Guy's excruciatingly literal third novel will tell you everything you ever wanted to know--and quite a bit more besides--about Henry Wilder's teen-age years in Pittsburg during the 1960s. Soda fountains, paper routes, first kisses, first intimations of parental fallibility--it's all here, the full weight of Proustian remembrance brought to bear upon the familiar Americana of Leave It To Beaver. Henry is the younger brother of the exemplary Bennett, and best friend of Sam Golden, who isn't a person but an embodiment of athletic grace and charisma. As Henry grows up to challenge both his mentors, he experiences the stuff of life. There is tragedy between best friends: ""The truth of the matter was that for the rest of the time I was in high school, I never spoke to Sam Golden again."" There is aching regret: ""My youth, my whole life, is a graveyard of things I might have done but didn't do."" But these sentences display the book's critical flaw, a sentimentality in language and thought that mires the action in essayistic meanderings. Worse, Guy (Football Dreams, The Man Who Loved Dirty Books) is conscientious about underlining all the action--if you somehow missed it the first time, don't worry, he's going to explain it to you again. In one strange twist the brothers Wilder explore sex with other men, Bennett preyed upon by a teacher, Henry with Sam, who says: ""It doesn't mean you're queer, Henry."" What honest writing there is in this novel usually concerns the Wilder parents, whose lifelong romance with food, art and each other is both recognizable and unpredictable. It's a pity they don't commandeer the story for themselves. In future years, when people want to know how three male adolescents in Pittsburg spent the 1960s, they may consult Second Brother: a novel full of borrowed nostalgia and earnest clich‚ that is never embarrassed by its lack of originality.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 1985

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: New American Library

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1985