SAM AND HIS BROTHER LEN by John Manderino

SAM AND HIS BROTHER LEN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two brothers come of age during the tumultuous 1960s in a ho-hum first novel. As the book opens, we find Len and Sam Rossini engaged in a children's game of ""war."" Conflict between the brothers sets the tone for their subsequent adventures from grade school through college. As young boys Sam and Len display divergent personalities. Len, the gregarious one, spends his time playing sports and reading comics. Sam, quiet and pensive, ponders the spiritual ramifications of what he euphemistically describes to a priest as ""sacrilegious dreams."" As they mature, Len remains the simple-minded kid he always was, retaining a quality of childish eloquence. Sam, inspired by studying Hamlet at school, becomes obsessed with the meaning of life. His upbeat reading includes Dostoevski's Crime and Punishment, which he even buys for the uninterested Len -- who, unsurprisingly, never makes it past the first chapter. Despite Len's request that he stay at home, Sam sets off to a university in search of answers to ""the ultimate question concerning Man's existence."" His quest leads him to drags, drunkenness, Buddhism, and ""meaningful"" songs before he returns home. Len, however, can never really see beyond his hometown. His plans include the local community college and marrying his high school sweetheart, Doris. The narrative switches between Len's first-person voice and third-person sections offering Sam's perspective, and both portions are filled with light, fluffy dialogue. The book is certainly a quick read, but is it a good one? Manderino obviously wants to portray the searching element of youth in the 60s but he hasn't done it with any real acumen. The vague ending is particularly disappointing. Not very bad, but not very good, either.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
Page count: 234pp
Publisher: Academy Chicago