SKATEAWAY by Michael Grant Jaffe


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Second-novelist Jaffe (Dance Real Slow, 1996) portrays the tensions and rhythms of domestic life as experienced by the three children of two broad-minded parents. Sherwood Anderson notwithstanding, small-town life in Ohio is not usually considered great literary material, but this only shows the limits of conventional wisdom. The straight-laced, semi-backwoods town that Kendall Boone and his wife Mercer move into is perfectly capable of high drama under the right circumstances—and this time the circumstances turn out to be provided by Kendall and Mercer themselves. Kendall is an artist who teaches at a local community college and spends days on end working in solitude in his studio; Mercer is a gynecologist who sometimes performs abortions at a nearby clinic. Their children—Clem, Garrett, and Samantha—enroll in the local schools and manage to fit in reasonably well on their own, but they find themselves in some ways victims of their parents” anomalies. Kendall is not much like the other Dads in town, and as for the Moms—well, most of them are more likely to picket abortion clinics than work in them. The Boone family’s oddball status picks up when Kendall begins to wander the streets blowing an aerosol horn at strangers and calling himself “Sonic Boone.” Then, of course, Mercer starts getting anonymous death threats and begins to find “Wanted” posters with her photograph taped to lampposts and mailboxes. Eventually, Kendall has to be sent away for medical treatment, and Mercer’s clinic requires police protection. Meanwhile, the children are still trying to live through their normal obsessions with hockey, schoolwork, and the opposite sex. But when a real bomb goes off, adolescence loses whatever innocence it still possessed, and they’re thrust into the adult world of evil and grief. Deliberate prose and a leaden plot, both detract from Jaffe’s obvious talent and sink his story in a mire of self-conscious nostalgia.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-374-26571-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1999


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