Brewster by Mark Slouka

Brewster: A NovelBrewster. Finished 10-3-13, rating 4.25/5, fiction, 283 pages, pub. 2013

My friend Golda, who works at WW Norton, sent me this ARC in the spring telling me that she thought I’d like it.  It didn’t look like my normal reading, but I trusted her.  It’s a coming of age story in the Vietnam War era (I should have told her that a college class I took on post-Vietnam literature ruined this period for me)  BUT, this book is beautifully written. I can’t even tell you how many of the passages leapt off the page and had me wishing I had a pen and paper, too many to keep track of for sure.  It is a slow novel, even for such a slim one, but it does pack a punch at the end that was so satisfying.

The year is 1968. The world is changing, and sixteen-year-old Jon Mosher is determined to change with it. Racked by guilt over his older brother’s childhood death and stuck in the dead-end town of Brewster, New York, he turns his rage into victories running track. Meanwhile, Ray Cappicciano, a rebel as gifted with his fists as Jon is with his feet, is trying to take care of his baby brother while staying out of the way of his abusive, ex-cop father. When Jon and Ray form a tight friendship, they find in each other everything they lack at home, but it’s not until Ray falls in love with beautiful, headstrong Karen Dorsey that the three friends begin to dream of breaking away from Brewster for good. Freedom, however, has its price. As forces beyond their control begin to bear down on them, Jon sets off on the race of his life—a race to redeem his past and save them all. (from Goodreads)

Let’s start by saying that if swearing turns you off, this is not the book for you.  They are rebellious teen boys, especially Ray, and it’s a little bit jarring at first.  After that I didn’t notice it as much.  I don’t know  if this was because there was less swearing or I just accepted it and stopped noticing it. But on to the story.

Jon is the good kid, the one with good grades, a physical talent, and two still married parents, but you learn that his parents are broken and withholding affection.  His mother is a tough pill to swallow, but Ray’s father took withholding affection to a whole other level.  These two boys meet on common ground even though looking from the outside you might not see the connection (insert your own governemt shutdown reference here).  I love the friendship between the boys and the foursome they made with Frank and Karen.

The impact of the slow but powerful storytelling was that the surprising end snuck up on me.  

Thank you Golda!!!