A compelling work of fiction that successfully captures the anger, frustration, and freedom of kids on the brink of...

HAMMOND

Lapoma’s (The Summer of Crud, 2018) novel tells the story of a group of misfit boys navigating adolescence in northern Buffalo, New York.

James Lombardi narrates the story of his childhood, during which he contended with a bullying clan of seventh-graders at his Catholic middle school; an angry, unforgiving father; and a gaggle of siblings. James calls his mental illness “the Darkness”; it manifested as periods of murderous “Evil Thoughts,” disembodied voices, and random violent outbursts. “A war had begun inside my head.” James reflects. “I was nine. I had no idea I was now both superhero and villain.” Still, he managed to remain focused thanks to basketball games, schoolwork, an ambitious newspaper-delivery route, and a series of mind-calming rituals to ensure sleep. He played basketball at Hammond Park with a rebellious group of outcasts that included Gerry, Tony, James, ringleader Ray, and others. They all found common ground on the courts, and as they incrementally matured over the next few years, they experimented with sex and drugs and dreamed of becoming basketball stars. Lapoma’s first-person narrative effectively and evocatively captures James’ frail emotional state as he stumbles through boyhood and his early adult years. The author is wise to incorporate moments of humor into his story, which leavens other parts of the book, such as those that focus on James’ psychologically precarious psyche. He also demonstrates a distinct knack for characterization for both his central players and peripheral ones, such as the local monsignor, who spouts expletives out a rectory window. The description of 13-year-old Luke, known among the kids as the “King of Hammond,” is also skillfully handled. Overall, this is an earnest, hardscrabble story of restless youth, mental illness, and the saving grace of sports-inspired camaraderie.

A compelling work of fiction that successfully captures the anger, frustration, and freedom of kids on the brink of adulthood.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9988403-5-2

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Almendro Arts

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more