The retarded teenager Marvin and his mother Gerda have been forced to leave Bow Island (1971) for a dingy apartment in Helsinki where their fourteen-year-old friend Johan sees their plight as another depressing example of our ""squirrel cage"" society. Johan is an introvert whose grim philosophical musings will not be to everyone's taste. But Marvin, who teeters between poeric rapture and uncomprehending rage, is beautifully portrayed and his misunderstandings have a visionary quality. (Once, on a visit to the zoo, Marvin becomes obsessed with the idea that the animals are listening--animal horns are antennae, the apes want to have a story read to them, the bats ""sing all the time, we just don't hear it."") Marvin and Gerda are eventually helped to return to the country where they can survive, but a series of realizations helps Johan accept that there will be no such escape for him. All that one has to hold onto are Johan's impressionistic, interiorized reactions, and to appreciate his flashes of originality one has to be willing to meet Marvin halfway. But readers who share his distaste for urban grayness and regimented competition may find the distance easy to close.