Twelve-year-old Max’s father, Rasheed, is determined to give Max everything he longed for throughout his own childhood in Lebanon, but he can't prevent their growing alienation as Max becomes a teenager and seeks out his Lebanese heritage.
Growing up in New Jersey, Max has never heard his father talk about “old Lebanese friends or family or religion or politics.” Rasheed’s friends are Tim, Max’s basketball coach, and their neighbor Mr. Yang, a fellow immigrant. For Rasheed, spending time with Mr. Yang is a respite from his “foreignness in other social environments.” But after Max chokes on a glob of candy at a party and nearly dies—saved only by a deft use of the Heimlich maneuver—the shock finally prompts Rasheed to talk about Max’s mother and their extended family, who were all murdered in Lebanon. What Max needs, Rasheed realizes, is a mother. He immediately finds a 22-year-old co-worker named Kelly to become his girlfriend and moves her into their home. Kelly, however, is more interested in Max than in his father—cuddly and affectionate, she slips into bed with Max at night and shows him how to masturbate. When Kelly runs off with their neighbor Nadine’s boyfriend, Max, now in eighth grade, seeks comfort in Nadine, driving a wedge between himself and his father. This rift is cemented when, in an overused deus ex machina, Max finds out that his mother is still alive and heads to Beirut to find her. Despite the tired plot device, this promising debut offers a finely nuanced look at race, gender, and power in American society. Dimechkie is at his best when allowing his great development of character, rather than forced plot points, to propel the narrative.
A promising debut penned in vivid, suspenseful prose that gives a new spin to the classic tale of fathers and sons.