Forty-one stories bring postwar Chicago to life through the eyes of Gifford’s alter-ego, Roy, who acts as a witness to a bygone era.
In the coda to the collection, Prince Faisal says to Lawrence of Arabia, “I long for the vanished gardens of Cordoba,” and Roy, the protagonist of most of the stories “knew exactly how Faisal felt,” remembering his favorite shortstop on the infield of old, demolished Comiskey Park. Gifford’s first novel for young adults, published in both young adult and adult editions, recreates a vanished time and place. Roy’s experiences include strippers, prize fighters, bums, a grill owner abducted by aliens, a naked boy with a deer rifle, a fur-cart pusher who’s the son of Auschwitz survivors and other characters that flesh out a landscape that makes Roy who he is. The third-person stories are snippets of experience, tales that set up few conflicts and offer no obvious revelations, and young readers may well be frustrated by the intangibility of the stories, but they do offer an accumulation of experience that adds up to one boy’s life in a particular time and place, vividly captured by an author who well knows his subject.
Young readers will find in Roy a worthy companion for a trip to a Chicago that doesn’t exist anymore. (Fiction. 14 & up)