THE HEART DOES NOT GROW BACK by Fred Venturini

THE HEART DOES NOT GROW BACK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Midwestern teenager learns that having a superpower isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s a testament to this novel’s unusual pull that it keeps the reader engaged despite its deeply disturbing imagery and much bloodshed. This is a fairly drastic reworking of Venturini’s 2010 indie novel The Samaritan, complete with a new ending. In the first act, we meet an awkward adolescent named Dale Sampson and his athletic best friend, Mack Tucker. They’re on the verge of graduating from the hell that is high school when Dale’s attraction to classmate Regina Carpenter earns him the wrath of her sadistic boyfriend, Clint, who ultimately slays her, three others and himself. While recovering from his wounds, Dale learns that he can regenerate his own limbs and organs. In a slow second act, we see Dale suffering from survivor’s guilt, figuring out the limits of his new abilities and indulging his savior syndrome by trying to help Regina’s twin sister, Raeanna, escape from an abusive marriage. In the third act, Mack brings Dale with him to California, where he's become a B-list reality show star. Dale pitches his so-called superpower to the networks as a reality show called “The Samaritan,” in which Dale donates his disposable organs to needy recipients. As he gives freely of kidneys, skin, bone marrow and even eyes, the world becomes increasingly fascinated with his abilities, even as Dale becomes increasingly more cynical. “Whatever is inside of me only seems to wake up when I get cut or beat on,” he tells a sympathetic doctor. “If that’s hope, hope can go fuck itself.” Make no bones about it, this is a grotesque tale punctuated by its brutal yet casual violence. However, it also offers a realistic portrayal of male friendships, a black comedy about the nature of the human body and, remarkably enough, a cathartic sort of redemption.

A curious story whose protagonist strongly resembles the antiheroes of comics writer Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, 2008, etc.).

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-250-05221-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2014




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