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Chance Hamilton, nearly 16, has an older brother Stam who wakes him at dawn to see the dew on the grass, a pulp-writer mother who asks, ""What do you guys know about love slaves?,"" and a with-it grandfather who says assuredly of Last Tango in Paris, ""When Brando sexually abuses Schneider, it is just his way of getting to know her."" Not exactly your Norman Rockwell family, but first-novelist Lawler keeps the eccentricities in proportion and the central question prominent: Will dreamer Stare, a recent college grad, find a place for himself, one Chance can share in time? Right now the impulsive older brother owes a bookie $1000 and has no source of income. Several jobs come and go--his vocational test is a Grade A disaster--as Stam fools around with equally loose-limbed friends. Chance is a steadier sort, worried about that $1000 debt, infatuated but wary of touching a very willing Tins, and able to hold his own on most fronts. (When an irritated operator warns him that the penalties for nuisance calls are imprisonment or loss of phone service, he asks ""Do I get my choice?"") Stam does find his unconventional place but only after he betrays Chance by seeing Tina, an action that irreversibly changes the brothers' relationship and nets Stam an old-fashioned punch in the mouth. To Lawler's credit, even that scene seems authentic; and because the story primarily entertains, it teaches without trying. Chance is more than a deadpan smartass, Stare more than an attractive drifter--this one should find a place of its own.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1979
Publisher: Pantheon