A WARMER SEASON by Joseph Olshan


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Olshan takes the risk of staring the maudlin face to face in this second novel (after Clara's Heart, 1985), but generally he succeeds in walking away with a very affecting coming-of-age story set in Westchester County. He's not really an original here, nor do his symbols tread lightly--starting with the title, which refers to the winter-bound characters' desire for better times--but his great empathy for teen-agers serves him well. Daniel Fell, a 17-year-old high-school senior, must cope with the emotional wrecking balls swinging through his final year. One is his parents' dissolving marriage. His father, a commuter, confesses to him early that their sexual life has ended. Next, Daniel eavesdrops on his mother's side of the story: the family lived in Italy until Daniel was 12, and, never having warmed to culturally barren suburbia, she wants to return. By novel's end, Father has settled in an NYC apartment, and Mother has gone, after selling the house and its contents in a garage sale that erupts into a family fight. Wrecking bali two comes about because Daniel, a Jew who speaks Italian, straddles the town's divided cultures--Jews live uphill from the tracks and Italians down. He befriends the school quarterback, Gianni Scaravento, who leads him willingly into a surrogate mother-son relationship with Mrs. Scaravento, an insomniac deteriorating with cancer. Finally, the town hoods, the Polanno brothers, want Daniel to convince their mother that they are innocent of the mysterious slaughter of the town's zoo animals. Olshan braids these strands together well; ruptures, betrayals, irrevocable losses occur; but the modest reconciliations at the end are a triumph for the basic good will of his characters. Olshan is not a flashy writer--the metaphors an Updike can use up in a page for similar suburban and emotional terrain can last him several chapters--but he writes with a simple elegance that almost imperceptibly pulls us up next to his characters' hearts.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1987
Publisher: McGraw-Hill