THE JUNK-DRAWER CORNER-STORE FRONT-PORCH BLUES by John R. Powers

THE JUNK-DRAWER CORNER-STORE FRONT-PORCH BLUES

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Powers's fourth novel (Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, 1975, is his best known) is a 1950's coming-of-age saga about a boy who loses his brother in an accident. Its bittersweet nostalgia is amiably comic most of the way through. Donald Cooper returns to the neighborhood where he grew up--on the South Side of Chicago--when his mother, a widow, breaks her hip. The narrative then seesaws between the present and the past that comes to haunt Donald. His mother was a housewife and his father drove a delivery truck at a time when the nuclear family was celebrated not for its dysfunctions but for its wholesome American flavor. And Donald, who in the present is recovering from lung- cancer surgery, remembers it mostly that way: brother Danny playing the trumpet, lemonade on the front porch, trips to the corner store, the crosstown rivalry between the White Sox and the Cubs. The story jump-cuts between years and instances, between Donald and Danny, between the usual crises and illnesses of childhood, providing nostalgia by way of 16-inch softball (``Many a Chicagoan has spent virtually every warm evening hour of his life playing sixteen-inch softball'') and high jinks by way of puberty (``About every ten minutes I'd have this urge to gangbang Europe'') and a mother who ``goes through the motions of tucking us in,'' no matter how old the boys became. Finally, however, after a series of instances involving the family car, Danny borrows it one night and is killed in a car wreck, whereupon the story turns suitably melancholy before finishing with an aching description of autumn and a relatively upbeat ending. Portions of the novel were originally presented in a one-man show. While the prose style is not particularly distinguished, the material has enough psychic weight and nuclear-family ambiance to deserve attention.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1992
ISBN: 0-525-93405-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1991




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