THE KEEPER by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor


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Nick Karpinski finds he must cope at home with his father's sudden plunge into mental illness while pretending that nothing is wrong. Eighth-grader Nick lives with his father, Jacob, and mother, Wanda, in a modest Chicago apartment. One day Jacob quits his job at Life Trust Insurance. Nick and Wanda don't press the taciturn Jacob to tell them why, and are relieved when he gets a new job. But soon Jacob leaves it as signs of mental illness surface. Jacob is suffering paranoid delusions, suspecting everyone of being a Communist; he feels he will be assassinated because he "knows too much." Wanda is ashamed to seek outside help or even breathe a word about it. Nick gets a part-time job to support the family, and falls into a nightmarish existence of living the life of a normal student during the day, his father's keeper through sleepless nights. He finds no easy answers and no real help from his uncle or the family priest. After Jacob brings home a rifle, Nick convinces the police that his father should be hospitalized and, against his will, Jacob is committed. Now the burden will be shared and Nick can rebuild his life. This is a rewarding book, well-written and careful in delineation of character and mood. Naylor wisely doesn't attempt to pinpoint the exact cause of Jacob's illness nor promise a miracle cure. Instead she focuses on the unwelcome and painful choices a boy must make for a father who can no longer function.
Pub Date: March 1st, 1986
ISBN: 0553268821
Page count: 196pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1986


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