A collection of stories that span the full arc of one man’s relentlessly mischievous life.
Debut author Tuggenov, in a series of delightfully comic tales, ambitiously chronicles the life span of a single protagonist—incorrigible prankster Tom Stanfield. Tom’s dad abandoned him when he was 7. In third grade, when he’s still timid enough to cry under stress, he meets Dennis “Duke” Dukovich, who becomes his best friend and an inspiration for youthful roguery. Their group of friends often meets to play in the woods—a patch of trees they call “the jungle,” making them collectively “the Jungle Cats”—and during sixth grade, they build a rudimentary shack there. The four main group members (Tom, Duke, Eddy, and Stringbean) are gleefully devoted to playful devilment, and their minor crimes earn them a police-bestowed moniker: “The Auburn Boys.” Most of their shenanigans are childishly benign—petty thefts and acts of vandalism—but others invite more serious scrutiny from authorities. In one memorable episode, they’re interrogated for real damage they did to a neighbor’s property. Tuggenov follows Tom’s exploits through college and into full adulthood, when he finally starts to fret about his love of clownish rascality. Throughout this collection, Tuggenov has a keen sense of boyish absurdity, and he effectively captures the cheerful buoyancy of adolescent banter. Many of the kids’ activities are hilarious, as well. Furthermore, the author provides an intelligent and lighthearted look into Tom’s ongoing struggle to become a better person, showing him reflecting on his moral shortcomings, particularly after he improbably survives a terrible motorcycle accident. Tuggenov’s prose is straightforward and free of literary embellishment, although his stories won’t satisfy readers in search of complex psychological depth. However, they are entertaining tales, all conveyed with wit and verve.
A companionable look at juvenile rambunctiousness.