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Coming-of-age in the summer of 1961--as rather fulsomely narrated by Daniel Price, who is just graduating from high-school in East Chicago, indiana, and who will soon go through a familiar pair of growing-up experiences: the death of a parent; and First Love, complete with disillusionment. ""At times my own sexuality overwhelmed me, made me dizzy with yearning for something I had never had, for love, perhaps, and then suddenly a tidal wave of loneliness would come over me, as if at eighteen I had already lived my life and I were an old man who was trying to remember, and couldn't, the loves and days of his youth."" Thus, Daniel--who hangs around with a group of woebegone, dimfuture pals not unlike the ones in Tesich's Breaking Away screenplay--is ripe for infatuation . . . which comes in the form of mysterious, whimsical new-girl-in-town Rachel Temerson: Daniel worships her, courts her, has one tantalizing moment of sexual consummation with her. And when his bitter, primly remote, factory-worker father falls ill with terminal cancer, Daniel uses the all-consuming romance to help him ignore his father, to blot out the dreadful reality: ""My mind had images of Rachel in it. My mind had images of us in it. My mind snapped shut and would not allow my father inside."" But the Rachel-obsessed idyll is short-lived: Daniel's father comes home to die, a mocking, angry presence that can't be avoided (especially when the source of his rage--Daniel's mother's infidelity--is brought to the surface); and finally Rachel herself is shown to be not-what-she-seems--with a melodramatic exposure of the darker side of romance that forces Daniel to face a life of adult ""freedom"" . . . and (after a series of role-playing experiments) embrace it. First-novelist Tesich does best here with the plain, domestic material: the miserable marriage of Daniel's parents (an earthy, mystical, Montenegroborn mother; a frustrated milquetoast-father) is compellingly sketched, as is the dying father's raging farewell. And the easy, sharp dialogue reflects the author's play/screenplay background. But Daniel's infatuation has neither the bigger-than-life sweep of Scott Spencer's Endless Love nor the detailed verisimilitude of Thomas Rogers' At the Shores; the secret-of-Rachel denouement falls flat; and Daniel himself is less vividly, convincingly drawn than either of his two best chums--whose subplots (meant as counterpoint) become odd distractions, as if from another, realer novel. A strangely unsatisfying fiction debut, then--but Tesich's Hollywood credits and his smooth, likable narration should attract a sizable readership.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1982
Publisher: Random House