SOMETIMES I LIVE IN THE COUNTRY by Frederick Busch

SOMETIMES I LIVE IN THE COUNTRY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another hammered and sawed novel from the prolific Busch (Rounds, Take This Man, and Invisible Mending). This short one relies on an all. too-familiar protagonist: a troubled adolescent whose very inarticulateness translates into lots of leaden prose. What's bothering 13-year-old Petey is this: his parents have separated and he has had to leave Brooklyn for life among the ""cornheads"" of rural upstate New York. Pop, a former NYC detective and all-around tough guy, is cooling his heels as a truant officer at the school Petey now attends. Streetwise but country foolish, Petey suffers the usual ""teen-age torments."" When he's not fantasizing about his history teacher's ample chest, he gives vent to his pent-up anger and frustration. And that means either trashing the school library or playing Russian roulette with his old man's service revolver. ""Living mostly alone together,"" father and son welcome Miz Bean (the school guidance counselor) and Mr. O'Nolan (a retired schoolteacher) into their lives. The former plays lover to the obsessed father--who's determined to find out the history of a local church--and friend to the motherless boy (it turns out that Pop stole Petey from his adulterous mom). Mr. O'Nolan, the only black man in this white-trash land of trailer homes and ""shitboxes"" out back, brings new problems--and purpose--to all their lives. The local booboisie, led by a crazed country preacher, don white sheets when the spirit moves them. These book-banning, cross-burning slobs force a bloody, though gutless, finale--one in which Petey seems to choose heroism over self-destruction. Open-ended, outdated, and mean-spirited, this thoroughly conventional tale, with its cartoonish characters, demands more traditional closure, a point of some sort. As it is, Busch merely offers a nightmare view of life outside the city, a clichÉ-ridden view at that.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1986
Publisher: Godine