HOME AND AWAY by Peter Filene


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 Coming-of-age debut novel set in 1951 in New York City, by the author of Him/Her/Self (1975) and others. Sixteen-year-old Murray Baum is the American son of German immigrants. His mother, the perfect hausfrau, writes him corny birthday poems, and his father is fascinated with garish Hawaiian shirts and American slang (he loves calling the Dodgers ``dem bums''). Meanwhile, little brother Theo is almost too lovable to be true. But this is the Red Scare era, and Murray's father is banished to California after refusing to sign a loyalty oath at work. Disoriented within this suddenly fatherless family, Murray is further disturbed because he can't determine his father's plans. And when confronted with the dreaded Junior Research Project at school, he decides the path to comprehension is through his parents' history. His research, however, is confusing. In tracking down The Truth, he finds differing interpretations. Was his father really in love with Barbara Jacobs, the beautiful blond from Kansas, or was she just his parents' friend? Murray can't decide about that or other slippery matters. Still, life goes on, and besides reading his parents' old letters and interviewing relatives, he hangs out with his friends at Buddy's Grill and dates Ruth and Arlie, neither of whom seems all that captivated with him, although one does relieve him of his virginity. In the end, Murray finds not answers but a realization that The Truth is very often a subjective matter open to interpretation and that a family is a complex organism in whose center he is as comfortable as he is stifled. Very well-executed and touching first novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-944072-22-4
Page count: 322pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1992