Parental death and, especially, parental drinking dominate this strongly realized problem novel featuring Sam, 16, and his younger brother Michael, who discover after their father's slow death from pernicious anemia that their mother is a secret alcoholic. As she gets worse the boys grow closer together, and finally they give each other courage to confront her with the list of ""charges"" that starts her on the difficult road to reform. Unlike Mary Stolz' The Edge of Next Year (1974), which began with an idyllic picture of family happiness to be shattered by the mother's death and the father's drinking, this makes a point of not idealizing the dead parent or the parents' marriage. Gradually Sam, who'd been closest to his father and is now hard hit by his death, comes to recognize Pa's selfish and insensitive side; and when Ma begins to tell the boys her story they become aware of frictions that had been covered up for years. The family drama has a firm, well-integrated setting (an old house in Boston's Charlestown, for which history-nut Dad had traded his native Beacon Hill)--but the boys' outside activities in the area don't take on much interest in themselves until the priest who runs Michael's teen theatre group introduces them also to his circle for alcoholics. Brooding throughout, Sam is as preoccupied all along with his mother's behavior as he was earlier with his father's dying. The love interest (there's an older, Irish girl across the street) is tame and tentative--as Winthrop focuses, with genuine feeling, on the bleakly realistic scenes of life with an alcoholic parent.