A harrowing debut about two kids on the run from New York City and their imploding families who find adventures aplenty—until they reach the end of the road.
In 1977, Bruiser is nine, old enough to run loose through his Upper West Side neighborhood while his uptight, adulterous Columbia art professor father grows angrier and his frustrated-poet mother grows more distant as their marriage sours. In the apartment across the courtyard from Bruiser’s window, ten-year-old Darla is increasingly harassed by her depressed single mother, until she decides she’s had enough and persuades Bruiser to flee with her. Stealing a few hundred dollars from their parents, the two children catch a bus to West Virginia, where Darla’s father—whom she hasn’t heard from in three years—lives, but they find no trace of him. Miraculously, he does show up after they’ve settled in, but he’s en route with his girlfriend to a West Coast ashram and stays only long enough to tip off their parents about where to find them. They escape again, this time in a rail car full of oranges, in search of Bruiser’s friend from the previous summer, who moved to North Carolina. A lonely Japanese farmer takes them in briefly, but Bruiser smashes the man’s tractor and himself into a tree, hurting his face so badly that he loses hearing in one ear. On the road again, the kids reach the friend’s place—but he’s moved away. In pain and dispirited, Bruiser just wants to go home; Darla reluctantly agrees, although she insists they take the scenic route through the Outer Banks—where a hurricane is about to hit. The resulting convergence of childhood will and elemental force gives rise to another miracle, but only for Bruiser. He gets home, battered and completely deaf, to parents who are now separated but still feuding.
A relentless view of childhood and family life gone awry—with a few moments of transcendent beauty.