Another hard-luck story from the author of, among others, last year's The Coming Triumph of the Free World. Here, a coming-of-age narrative set during 1943, when the government switched from copper to zinc in the production of pennies. And that's just one of the ways that life was cheapened while America was at war. But Trygve Soren Napoli doesn't appreciate this fact until the year runs its course and he learns just how ""dirty and small-minded' the war is. Until then, his ten-year-old imagination runs wild with dreams of military heroics, and these vivid imaginings are stimulated not just by movies but by life in Los Angeles, where, in 1943, he's come to live with his divorced and remarried mother after spending four years in exile with his puritanical Norwegian grandparents in Montana. Squeezed into a small apartment are Trygve; his flighty mother; her new husband, Mitchell Selfrage, a pretentious aspiring movie actor whose cheap good looks find him working as a milkman; his mother's slightly lunatic sister, who becomes flakier as time goes on; her brutish husband, Gerald Fergus, a drunkard and a brawler who spends most of his time at sea; and Gerald's son from a previous marriage, the 15-year-old William, a troublemaker who quickly renames his goofy cousin ""Monk"" and impresses the unworldly boy with his ability to fart at will. As Trygve retreats further into himself, he manages to befriend some fellow outsiders, including a Jewish boy from New York (Malcolm Bruckner) who lives in the same building. Life improves when the women begin working at an aircraft factory, but then takes a downward turn when the Bruckners are evicted for being Jewish; Uncle Gerald is lost at sea, making Aunt Ginger crazier; Mitchell gets drafted; and the rest of Trygve's motley family are also evicted. When his always disappearing mother decides to move on, she sends her moony son back to Montana, bringing the year (and the novel) to a neat close. Some glimpses into the grimmer realities of life stateside during the ""good war,"" but otherwise a perfunctory and pointless book.