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Documentary filmmaker Sedlack debuts with a somewhat backward young man’s insipid account of a journey toward adulthood with his folks in tow.

Richard Clark’s parents take him on a tour of Africa when he’s 19, a trip his mother always wanted. But the Dark Continent promptly sends her into madness—Richard hardly cares, since he hates her (he thinks she might have once molested him)—and the alcohol isn’t really helping dad to cope at all. Meanwhile, Richard distracts himself with sex with a German frau (while her husband watches), a crocodile man in a cave who warns him that he stinks of death and lies and should leave Africa, and a 20-year-old named Nicole, who doesn’t mind that Richard has a strategically repaired harelip. Richard’s journal entries occasionally segue back into fantasies he had about housewives at 15, ranging on to old football games that might have made a difference in his life had he scored a touchdown, and to a belt beating once administered by dad—but eventually the relationship with mom is the one that becomes an issue again in Africa. Is it because things have gone sour with Nicole? “It’s not your lip that makes girls run. It’s your mind. They can tell. You’re not right,” says she. Author Sedlack overplays the journal style, and Richard’s adolescence, too: what we read is often little more than a dry diary by an oversexed and unambitious stylist. But as weird as mom and dad are, and as bizarre as the excursion to Africa will become, even Richard will eventually arrive at something of significance and realize that “Mom and dad have shown me that true freedom is found not in the lotus position, and certainly not in the revelation of dark, buried secrets, but in the jaws of a lion.”

Minor insights far outweighed by a parody of childhood so perfect it’s annoying.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 2003
ISBN: 1-58567-300-5
Page count: 309pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2003