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In Charles Miller and his half-Vietnamese cousin Lon, Dixon presents an interesting study in comparative character, and when the orphaned Lon comes to join the prominent Miller family in a conservative New England town, the situation has a built-in tension. Lon turns out to be a reserved, dignified young man with firm pacifist opinions and an aversion to the Yankee spirit of competition, whereas Charles, the narrator, is enough of a non-conformist intellectual to quote Marcus Aurelius and mimic Vonnegut--yet plays the team sports he loathes to uphold the family honor and his own image. The two boys barely understand each other except in times of trouble--a whole soap opera's worth. There's a malicious attempt to involve Lon with the town slut, a tearful Memorial Day sing-in when Lon expresses his anti-militarist views with a chorus of ""Ain't gonna study war no more . . .,"" his attempted kidnapping by some motorcycle toughs, Grandmother Miller's heart seizure and two separate gatherings which offer the occasion for speeches on war, patriotism and the American way of acceptance. Dixon's heart is in the right place, and watching such a superior individual as Lon suffer and triumph over prejudice is always moving. Still, except for those who have never before considered the plight of Vietnam, there is little here that would challenge anyone's complacency--in fact those of us who would not beat up or insult a boy for being half-Oriental can come away feeling a vicarious glow of virtue. On its own terms, the melodrama works fairly well--a few of the lesser characters demonstrate unexpected complexity from time to time, and Charles is divided enough inside himself to make the theme at least implicitly challenging.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1974
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Atheneum