In McGhee’s (Never Coming Back, 2017, etc.) latest offering, a 16-year-old grapples with his father’s suicide and the rape of his childhood friend at a party.
Three years have passed since Will’s father took his life. Every Tuesday night as his mother works the overnight shift, Will tries and fails to re-create his father’s cornbread recipe. He has a job at a dollar store, where he gives his socially awkward boss the nickname Major Tom, after the David Bowie song. He feels driven to wander the streets of Los Angeles, connecting with a precocious brown-skinned, black-haired child he calls “little butterfly dude” and offering his failed batches of cornbread to Superman, a homeless person. He recalls memories of his father, attempting to make sense of his suicide, and agonizes over his old friend Playa (named by beach-loving parents) and his guilt over leaving the party early. He drops in on Mrs. Lin, who runs a Chinese store he used to visit with his father, fascinated by the 100 blessings she sold. Told from Will’s fragmented, raw perspective, this slim novella packs a profound punch. Numbers from one to 100 written in Chinese (verso) accompany each snapshot from Will’s life, relayed in sparse, taut language (recto). Most characters are assumed white.
Haunting, introspective, and traced with pain. (Fiction. 14-18)