In Bennett’s novel, a young boy from the shores of Long Island struggles with family tragedy, first love and even the supernatural.
Bennett recounts the adventures of John “Crabber” White, a young man growing up on Long Island in the 1950s. Crabber’s adventures, which take place all over Long Island and New York state, help him grow up fast, whether he likes it or not. He goes to the Yonkers Raceway with his uncle, Tony; starts a bike repair business with his brother; goes on a hunting trip with the McGee family that almost ends in tragedy; works for a blind shellfish-dealer named Capt. Kolonick; and meets a local girl named Laurie after almost floating away on a barge. Crabber even confronts death, both among his neighbors and in his own family. After wrestling with these challenges and character-building experiences, he discovers that his neighbors are good people willing to stand up for what’s right, despite the hardened exterior they choose to present. The stories are a blend of the humorous and the sentimental, the devastating and the hopeful, which, at times, can verge on being too folksy or smarmy. Still, Bennett’s eagerness and sincerity shine through, giving some of the stories impressive power. The subjects of the stories can be surprising, too, with the death of a sibling followed by an encounter with the ghosts of long-lost children. Bennett doesn’t connect all these different kinds of stories, but the variation in themes is intriguing.
A sometimes sappy set of stories that have genuine heart.