Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Brewster by Mark Slouka

I'm the backwardest of persons, truly, I am.  I mean, think about it.  When you unconsciously decide to become an undependable blogger for the better part of a year and coast along at the brisk rate of two posts a months, a thinking person would more than likely review the books they like the most.  I, on the other hand, being of unsound mind and questionable judgement cropped up on my blog mostly to post reviews of books I found to be on the high end of mediocre.  In the meantime, what fell by the wayside?  Um, many of the books that I loved from last year.  The fabulous guilt I feel about just this problem has kept three most excellent books taking up space on my desk, since last year.  I have, since, I am sure, mentioned these books in a few Top Ten Tuesdays with glowing regard, but alas, if I don't at least attempt to review them properly, I fear they will linger on my desk until I'm grey and old.  Therefore, today, on this otherwise most unremarkable of days, I intend to do something about this.  And that something is....reviewlettes!

First up - Brewster!  For starters, let's check out the cover.

It is the perfect cover for this story.  Okay, yes, it's kind of bleak, but you know what else is?  The book.  It's a little on the bleak side, but happily for me, I like bleak books, especially when they are as powerful as this one. 

 Only Ray and Karen understood, Karen because she could hear what you were saying even when you weren't, because she could see exactly how f--ked up you were and care for you anyway, Ray because he had his own storm, twice as black and twice as loud, and recognized the look.
It's why we were friends.  I'd disappeared the day my brother died.  He dreamed of nothing more.

Jon Mosher is sixteen in 1968, living in a household rendered silent and loveless by the childhood death of his older brother.  He's learning to run track, and yearning to escape the town he's growing up in.  He's a good friend, but he doesn't have many, and the one he does have, has more problems than a household that forgot to stop grieving.  When Jon meets Ray Cappiciano, he knows they don't have a whole lot in common other than a keen desire to escape a no account town.  Wandering the streets of Brewster, fixing up the car they dream will deliver them from their town and their problems, and listening to music in Jon's room where Ray takes refuge from his unpredictable, abusive father, the two forge a bond that is stronger than even they imagine.

Brewster is a book that struck me as unique with its quiet intensity.  It's not action-filled, and what foreshadowing there is, is hardly overbearing, rather the whole story, even during the good times, leaves a sense of some big bad about to happen.  Slouka's writing is powerful even when restrained, making would-be ordinary moments fraught with emotion and tension.  He renders the friendship between the two boys well on the road to becoming men in a way that is startling in its realism, leaving plenty unsaid but just as much understood.  All the time, though, Slouka's holding just enough back that when the story's climax comes, and he unleashes the full power of his writing prowess on the plot that's been slowly building, it's enough to wrench your heart out of your chest and leave you raw with emotion.

I was so, so impressed with this book, that, as you can see, I couldn't really keep it to an acceptably sized reviewlette (though pretty concise for me), so into its own post it goes, with the promise of more "throwback reviewlettes" to come.

It's the music that brings it back, brings it alive.  Dylan and Creedence, the Beatles and the Stones.  It would take us back down where the cool water flows, Karen smiling, the three of us nodding to the beat, doing our best John Fogerty imitations, Ray stalking the embankment in his cutoffs, leaning back to play that invisible lick, then whipping forward, wet hair falling in his face --- Let me remember things I don't know.  In July there would always be that one night when the air was warm as the water and the water like velvet and you'd swim out and dive and come up into the dark and a soft wave of fields and honeysuckle would wash over you and you'd say to yourself, because you could, because you were young, I could die right now and it wouldn't matter.
(I received this book from the publisher for review consideration.)


  1. I haven't even heard of that book and it sounds so good!

  2. Never heard of this one. Sounds bleak, but good. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing your opinions, even if it took a *little* while :)