THE PATCH BOYS by Jay Parini


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Poet and second-time novelist Parini (Anthracite Country, Love Run, etc.) here limns a fairly formulaic and unpretentious coming-of-age novel distinguished somewhat by its setting: Pennsylvania coal-mining country in the 1920's. If there's one thing 15-year-old Sammy di Cantini's sure of, it's that he'll never work the anthracite mines that claimed the life of his father, a hard-working Italian immigrant whose accidental death inspires his older son, Vincenzo, to proselytize on behalf of the burgeoning UMW. During the long and eventful summer chronicled here, the ambitious Sammy hustles newspapers, caddies, plays ball, and dreams of being ""rich and famous."" But those around him have different hopes for his future. Fat and kindly Fr. Francis wants him to consider the priesthood; his sister Lucy, a teen-aged bride, thinks a job as a mechanic alongside her husband would be swell; and older brother Louis provides a tempting example as a low-level hood in New York. Though he privately yearns for Yale and a career in law, Sammy seems all at once shut out from this world of infinite possibility. His best friend rebuffs him unaccountably; his first fumblings at sex result in humiliation; and, most importantly, his radical brother's call for a strike leads to his, Vincenzo's, dramatic murder--an event that forces Sammy back into the real world of classes in bloody conflict. In the moment of passage, Sammy accepts his brother's legacy: an abiding concern for the plain people who live in ""the patch,"" the working-class community not far from the ever-flowing Susquehanna. In this often charming novel of innocence lost, Parini strongly evokes the landscape he knows so well; he seems less certain of the era.

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 1986
Publisher: Henry Holt