WINTER EYES by Lev Raphael


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 Raphael's second book (Dancing on Tisha B'av, 1990)--a gay coming-of-age novel about a boy whose Jewish parents separate--is a competent account that becomes programmatic and tiresome, calling upon the Holocaust and the Sixties to spice up an all-too- predictable plot. Stefan Borowski's Polish immigrant parents are very secretive about their past. In fact, Stefan is never told he's Jewish until halfway through the book. As a small boy, he takes piano lessons from Uncle Sasha, who becomes his best friend and confidante. Meanwhile, odd clues about ``the War'' or ``the Germans'' are shovelled under the rug, and Stefan's irritable father finally leaves the family, first on a temporary basis and then for good. Stefan's mother goes back to school while Stefan spends an idyllic summer with Uncle Sasha before choosing to move in with him, grow his hair long, and become pals--innocent at first, then sexually involved--with Louis del Greco. The two of them experiment sexually for a time; then Stefan, by now in college, tries to deny his sexual orientation and hang out with Jenny, who gets him caught up in antiwar demonstrations before a bathroom mugging cures him of radical notions. When he fails at sex with Jenny, he goes back temporarily to gay sex, visits his mother, and begins to dread his father's impending wedding to a second wife. By story's end, Stefan is sleeping with Marsha, who also goes both ways, but he's still a lost soul who's not come to terms with either his Jewishness or his homosexuality. The novel, unfortunately, seems as unformed and tentative as Stefan. The whole never coheres, so we have to settle for a sometimes touching but mostly tedious narrative that promises more than it delivers.

Pub Date: Nov. 23rd, 1992
ISBN: 0-312-08338-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1992


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