EDDIE'S BASTARD by William Kowalski


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Newcomer Kowalski pens an entertaining John Irving soufflÇ: a coming-of-age tale about a boy who becomes a novelist, having written a symbolic short story that he includes in a novel about a young boy coming of age. In August 1970, the baby William Mann is silently deposited on the porch of Grandpa Thomas Mann, Jr., the last patriarch of the once-wealthy founder family of Mannville, New York. Grandpa might have stepped on the child had not an F-4 fighter jet streamed overhead just in time—a pleasant Garpish touch. Like Garp’s father, William’s was a pilot, shot down a few months before in Vietnam. Grandpa Thomas raises the boy in a house full of ghosts and stories, including the one about the lost diary written by Civil War veteran Willie Mann. (Could it contain shameful secrets?) Across the way live the Simpsons, archenemies of the Manns, and their daughter Annie, with whom young Willie falls in love. A good Garp reproduction will feature an oracular woman who is scarred by sexual abuse, and Annie Simpson performs the role here, having been systematically raped by her father throughout her girlhood. She flees alone to Montreal, where she becomes—here, the proper Irvingite will, with Willie, sigh for the loss—a lesbian. But “maybe leaving her alone was the best thing. So I focused my energy anew on finding my mother.” With the encouragement of Dr. Connor, Willie’s authorial talent is nurtured, while all the loose strands in the story—the key to the Mann’s early fortune, the Simpson family curse, the identity of his mother, and the contents of Willie’s diary—come shudderingly together at nothing less than Grandpa’s funeral. Knock-off models are best enjoyed when the original is kept from view, and though its merrily familiar plot can make this somewhat difficult, Kowalski’s version will get you from A to B better than most. (First printing of $75,000)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-019355-7
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999


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