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A boy’s turbulent coming-of-age in suburban Connecticut during the 1970s.

It’s not easy to be nostalgic about the era of Watergate, Gerald Ford, and the leisure suit, but when you’re 12 the world can look exciting no matter where you meet it. Our hero Timmy, on the cusp of adolescence, still lives mainly within the confines of family squabbles and schoolboy pranks, but he’s beginning to pick up hints that life is not all beer and skittles. His parents seem to be breaking up, for one thing: They have very different tastes (Mom a straitlaced Protestant, Dad a volatile Italian Catholic) and argue nonstop. Plus, Dad seems to have a girlfriend on the side. Timmy has played doctor with Sissi Mandelbaum, but he’s still more interested in hanging out with Sissi’s brother Steve and Tony (“the Tiger”) Papadakis. Timmy, the baby of the family, tends to follow the lead of his brother Albert, while sister Daphne is siding with their father in his marital feuds—especially after his mother throws Dad out of the house. Dad is no less shocked than the children, but he eventually makes it up to Mom and returns home a few months later to start all over again. Newcomer Pope gives us a portrait of an age as much as anything else, and the daily referents in Timmy’s life—Elton John, The Poseidon Adventure, Happy Days, Richard Nixon—suffuse the story like water in an aquarium. If it all seems somewhat haphazardly thrown together and without a clear focus or sense of direction—well, that’s what childhood is like.

Still, this modest and appealing debut meanders too much for its own good and never acquires enough shape or shading.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-42236-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2003