ROOMMATES by Max Apple


My Grandfather's Story
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 One grumpy old man and his grandson--rated N for nostalgic and, finally, T for tragic. To readers who don't share Apple's (The Propheteers, 1987) affection, his grandfather Rocky (nÇ Yerachmiel) might best be described by his own favorite epithet: ``son of a beetch.'' From his childhood in Grand Rapids, Mich., through his graduate school days in Ann Arbor, to his years as a husband, father, and college professor in Houston, Apple's beloved ``roommate'' was his ornery grandfather. Rocky has his touching, and humorous, points: The lifelong baker continues his art even after passing 100 years of age; an Orthodox Jew, he caringly ushers a young seeker into Judaism; he accompanies Max and his girlfriend, Debby, on a comical mission to recover Debby's shanghaied dog. But Rocky is also a master of emotional blackmail; confronted with Debby's moving into the Ann Arbor apartment, he says, ``If I wanted to live in a whorehouse, I could have stayed in Grand Rapids.'' Much of Apple's narrative is an ongoing cycle of battles and reconciliation, with Rocky locking himself in his bedroom or the basement (for instance, refusing to attend Max and Debby's wedding) and eventually relenting. His wedding cake comes ten years after the fact--too late not only for the event, but too late for Debby to enjoy at all, for by then her mind, and body, have been touched by multiple sclerosis. The final third of Apple's account relates the devastating effects of her illness on daughter Jessica and son Sam. Jessica buries herself in baseball statistics, and both shun their friends. (``I hate it when people ask me about Mom,'' Jessica says. ``I just tell them she fell off the Empire State Building.'') Apple himself tries to juggle devotion to his hospitalized wife with the complex needs of the children. In the end, it is Apple's affecting writing about his deepest loss that carries this book. Disney will be releasing it as a movie (starring Peter Falk as Rocky).

Pub Date: June 21st, 1994
ISBN: 0-446-51826-3
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994