BEING WITH HENRY by Martha Brooks


Age Range: 12 - 14
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Born from the short story `The Kindness of Strangers` in her collection Traveling on into the Light and Other Stories (1994) Brooks builds a delicately tuned novel in three parts that pays homage to Capote in its treatment of characters, but stands strongly on its own. Good-looking Laker is an introspective teenager who's grown up with his mostly-single mom Audrey. Her new marriage and pregnancy drives a wedge into their close relationship, and Laker starts to stay away from home, drinking, punishing himself and his mom, until in a rage he physically attacks his stepfather, and then catches a bus out of town. Act two: enter Henry, an octogenarian still grieving for his wife, who takes in Laker mostly to spite his own daughter. Laker does some work for Henry in exchange for room and board, but by the time the two can both admit they're using each other, they've become attached. In the final section, Henry and Laker take a trip together that returns each to his own past, and is intended to set them each on his own way. Laker's voice is moody, melancholy, and intelligent. He reads plays voraciously—especially, of course, A Streetcar Named Desire, and his inner landscape is portrayed metaphorically in the outer one that Brooks details. She seems to employ an entirely different vocabulary than the rest of us, as her completely ordinary turns of phrase swell with the extraordinary. She has a keen eye for people, as Capote did, and every minor character comes alive instantly and fully. Laker's story is at once pedestrian and miraculous. Brooks deals with universal adolescent themes of home, self, and romance with a fresh hand, creating a memorable story that begs repeating. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-7894-2588-2
Page count: 215pp
Publisher: DK Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2000


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