OFFSPRING by Jonathan Strong

OFFSPRING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The domestic harmony of an eccentric Midwest family is threatened in this enchanting, at times unsettling, seventh novel from Strong (An Untold Tale, 1993, etc.). Lincoln and Izzy, tender sweethearts since age 11, are now the devoted parents of three odd, lovable boys who have dedicated their young lives to excavating a tunnel in their basement. The oddness seems inherited, for Linc and Izzy are the very definition of quixotic misfits. Though both are from affluent families, they eschew any trace of their privileged, traditional background: They putter around in an old jalopy, forbid religion in their slightly shabby home, tinker halfheartedly at business (Linc has turned a childhood passion for cartography into an old-maps store; Izzy owns a junk-shop), and are splendidly unadventurous, preferring the safety of a world atlas to actual travel. And though they've been monogamous since grade school, they're still unmarried. This hardly seems the stuff of a deviant lifestyle, but Strong effectively creates an oppressive, bunker-like environment for the family. The basement tunnel, which represents so much more than the boys' idiosyncratic amusement, becomes a further retreat from a world they all fear, a safety zone from civilization. The pleasantly meandering plot accelerates when the sanctuary of their home is endangered: A school psychologist takes a suspicious interest in the middle boy, Malachi. He and his brothers, Obadiah and Zephaniah, seem harmlessly secretive and precocious, but after a car is set afire, stop-signs defaced, and random acts of vandalism pop up at school, the psychologist begins to suspect the worst of those quiet, eerily obedient boys. When tragedy inevitably hits, the family experiences the ultimate test of their devotion to one another--and their diminishing ability to keep the world at bay. Endearing characters produce a fascinating portrait of American family life, viewed through the quirky perspective of the author.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Zoland