From the author of The Scapeweed Goat (1989): a pleasant, low-key comedy of manners about a family of fundamentalists and...

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PORTOFINO

From the author of The Scapeweed Goat (1989): a pleasant, low-key comedy of manners about a family of fundamentalists and their hormone-driven son who vacation each year on the Italian Riviera. Calvin Becker, ten, has been vacationing at a pensione on the Riviera with his parents ever since he turned three. Reformed Protestants, his parents bicker ceaselessly with each other while they try to reform the European Roman Catholic world. Dad had ""a highly developed sense of personal grievance,"" and Calvin, along with his mother and two sisters, spends a good deal of time trying to gauge ""Dad's Moods."" Set during 1962-65, the novel works largely as a picaresque as Calvin explores the town, makes friends, discovers the dual pleasures of drink and female companionship (mostly innocent), and walks a thin family line between sophistry and lying. The book is vivid with the things that Calvin sees and experiences: the yachts of the ""Very Wealthy,"" snorkeling (and, eventually, getting entangled by an octopus), the sights of the large hotels on the family's waterfront strolls, and, especially, the stories of the family's Prayer Charts and Sword Drills (the Bible is their sword) and long dining-room benedictions. Finally, Calvin rebels and refuses to carry his Gospel Walnut with him. He shoots a cat with his spear-gun, adopts a family of ""sadly lost Roman Catholics,"" and, reacting to love-interest Jennifer, begins to wonder how to hide his ""Little Thing"" when it gets hard--those tight Italian bathing suits, you know. Finally, though, after his parents discover his drinking, ""My wickedness brought the family back together."" Sometimes contrived or predictable, but, overall, good-humored diversion: a wry coming-of-age tale with a few splendid laugh-out-loud moments.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0786713755

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992