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Brewster: A Novel Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Limited edition (August 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393239756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393239751
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Slouka (The Visible World, 2007) brings a Richard Russo–like compassion and his own powerfully stripped-down prose to this poignant coming-of-age story set in the small blue-collar town of Brewster, New York, in the year 1968. Jon Mosher has always felt like an outsider because of his parents’ roots as German-Jewish émigrés and the accidental death of his older brother, which has broken his parents’ spirit. He channels his anger into running track with his high-school team and eases his isolation through his friendships with the hulking Frank Krapinski, a devout Christian and talented athlete; volatile Ray Cappiciano, who is forever getting banged up in fistfights; and beautiful, forthright Karen Dorsey, who soon starts dating bad-boy Ray. Always looming in the background is the specter of Ray’s alcoholic father, a sadistic WWII veteran possessed of a raging temper. What Slouka captures so well here is the burning desire of the four teens to leave their hardscrabble town behind and the restricted circumstances that seem to make tragedy an inevitable outcome. What Slouka also draws, with unerring accuracy, is the primacy of friendship and loyalty among teens who feel they are powerless. Slouka gives them a voice here, one filled with equal parts humor and pain. --Joanne Wilkinson


“[I]ntense and elegiac novel… Slouka’s storytelling is sure and patient, deceptively steady and devastatingly agile.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Slouka’s laconic dialogue resonates with regional authenticity, his late-1960’s pop culture references ring true, and the stripped down prose style in his masterful coming-of-age novel recalls the likes of Tobias Wolff and Raymond Carver.” (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review)

“Reading Brewster is like entering the very heart of a Bruce Springsteen song—all grace, all depth, all sinew. Slouka—one of the great unsung writers of our time—has written a magnificent novel that woke my tired heart.” (Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin)

“Terrific…. [W]here Slouka distinguishes himself as an author of particular sensitivity and significance is in how accurately and memorably he is able to conjure up a particular mood that has no doubt been felt in every era, not just the late '60s and early '70s. There is a timeless sense of yearning here.” (Adam Langer - Boston Globe)

“The dark undertow of Slouka’s prose makes Brewster instantly mesmerizing, a novel that whirls the reader into small-town, late 1960s America with mastery, originality, and heart.” (Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad)

“Evocative… gorgeously written… both spare and highly dramatic. Slouka has an exceptional ear for the way kids talk, an eye for the detail of a not-so-recent past …. In Brewster, Slouka creates a messy miniature. It's a tight, little world where …the subjects—human frailty, friendship, yearning, heart and love—don't make for easy poses. And you can't take your eyes from it.” (John Barron - Chicago Tribune)

“If ecstasy was Nabokov’s keynote, Slouka’s is passion. I can think of no one else who writes with such brazen fervor, with so much heart poured into every line. He is the perfect writer for a Passion Play about youth: youth’s ardor, youth’s anguish, youth’s nakedness. Brewster is that novel, and it blazes.” (Brian Hall, author of Fall of Frost)

“This beautifully written coming-of-age story sings with wisdom and heart. Slouka’s characters struggle to survive against a backdrop of remembered pain, routine violence and the threat of being drafted to Vietnam, fighting to retain a friendship that may just be able to save them.” (Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River)

“[A] novel of stark and brutal truths…[Brewster] culminates in a scene of such visceral power and narrative force that this reader was left breathless. But perhaps Slouka's greatest accomplishment is his ability to blend his own authorial voice with the dialogue of his characters. It's as if the conversations that pass between Jon and Ray and Karen - about music, their plans for the future, their love and devotion to each other—are the lyrics to Slouka's melody. And what a beautiful and redemptive song it is.” (Peter Geye - Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“What Slouka also draws, with unerring accuracy, is the primacy of friendship and loyalty among teens who feel they are powerless. Slouka gives them a voice here, one filled with equal parts humor and pain.” (Booklist, Starred Review)

“Despite delving bravely into despairingly dark subject matter, [Brewster] is still somehow infused with hope and light, achieving a sort of literary chiaroscuro.… Brewster could become the latest addition to the American canon of coming-of-age stories, enchanting readers with its soulful story of love, loss and the vagaries of the teenage heart.” (Karen Ann Cullotta - BookPage)

Brewster is subtly wrought and wholly moving, capturing with beautiful desperation the sense of personal insecurity overshadowed by an era of unwieldy international concerns.” (The Rumpus)

“One to devour… fans of Richard Russo novels or Chad Herbach’s The Art of Fielding should love this novel.” (The Columbus Dispatch)

“A masterpiece of winter sorrow… Slouka’s real triumph here is capturing the amber of grief, the way love and time have crystallized these memories into something just as gorgeous as it is devastating.” (Ron Charles - Washington Post)

More About the Author

Mark Slouka is the internationally recognized author of six books. Both his fiction and nonfiction have been translated into sixteen languages. His stories have twice been selected for inclusion in Best American Short Stories, and his essays have appeared three times for Best American Essays. His stories, "Crossing" and "The Hare's Mask," have also been selected for the PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories. In 2008, he was a finalist for the British Book Award for his novel The Visible World, and his 2011 collection of essays, Essays from the Nick of Time, received the PEN/Diamonstein-Speilvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. A contributing editor to Harpers Magazine since 2001, his work also appears in Ploughshares, Orion Magazine, Bomb, The Paris Review, Agni, and Granta. A Guggenheim and NEA fellowship recipient, he has taught literature and writing at Harvard, Columbia, and University of Chicago. He is currently living with his family in Brewster, NY.

Customer Reviews

Slouka's prose is assured, meditative, and beautiful.
"switterbug" Betsey Van Horn
Once I started, I didn't want to put the book down, so it was a quick read.
Big Grass
Great character development and a sad and moving story.
rebecca clark

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By B Sperber on August 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A gorgeously written and immensely affecting coming of age story. Jon Mosher, the child of German immigrants, grows up in Brewster in 1968, around the time of the town's gentrification. Race relations and racism set an underlying tone. Jon's rejected by many because of his foreign-ness, until he meets two unlikely friends and forms a bond with them. In high school, a teacher almost blackmails him to join the track and cross country teams, where Jon finds the most solace and personal achievements.

There is much to say on Slouka's comments on violence and love in the family unit, how it shapes us to behave in certain ways and leads children onto various paths. There's Ray, whose dark home life lead him to act out and pick fights in school and Jon's own mother is so devastated by the loss of a different son she can only look at him with contempt. What the reader sees is the different forms love can manifest itself in: when one transposes love onto a friend because they lose it from a parent, when a family stays together only because they have to, when a parent's own struggles lead to disdain for a child.

The backdrop of Brewster, a small blue-collar town on the border of Connecticut in New York, sets the tone. It's a town where people might get stuck and the boys promise to leave it all behind, one wonders if they ever will achieve such a goal. Small town life becomes a theme here - as Ray is making plans to depart, the boys ignore the possibility that people might know something. Small towns lead to gossip and many people know Ray's personal history without having to snoop.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a sweet, sad, brilliantly written novel about the sorts of people who don't usually get novels written about them. The book's set in 1969-70 in the town of Brewster, New York. The two guys at the center of the book, Ray and Jon, want more than the life of their small town can possibly yield, but they're at a loss about how to get it. Ray's a tough-guy, though with highly tuned feelings; Jon is a reader, a brooder (and the narrator) living the life of an orphan in a house with his two parents. (It's a complex story.) The book revolves around their mutual efforts to get free--break on through to the other side. Their hunger for Freedom is strong--but Fate in the person of Ray's father and the in burdens that Jon's parents bring from old Europe is also a potent force. The characters are patiently, lovingly drawn; the scenes perfectly set--you can taste and smell the town of Brewster. What happens at the close is perfect--a wise, worldly, loving book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Pamela A. Poddany VINE VOICE on August 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover

What a lovely, wonderfully wild, sentimental, heartbreaking, down-to-earth, sad, joyful book this is. BREWSTER grabbed me by my heart with the first sentence and left me gasping -- and crying -- at the end. I have not shed so many tears over a book in quite a while. I loved this book.

Meet Jon Mosher, a teenager living in Brewster, New York, in the late 1960's and 1970's. This is an era filled with the Stones, Beatles, Woodstock, Nam, and many other history-making events. Jon's mom and dad are immigrants who decided to set down their roots in Brewster and start a shoe business and family. When Jon is four his older brother is killed and his family never recovers from this tragedy. In fact, Jon's mother seems to forget she has one son left -- Jon -- who needs her love and attention but only receives rejection, coldness, and absolutely nothing from her. She is a woman so pulled apart by her young son's death that she cannot face the world. She makes her son, Jon, suffer as much as she is by refusing to be a mother to him, barely acknowledging his existence. Jon's father is a good man, quiet and hard-working, yet he loves him son and shows him that love the best he can.

Jon Mosher, perpetually sad, quiet, lacking self-confidence, becomes the unlikely friend of Ray Cappicciano, the town bad boy, a rebel, a smart mouth, good looking, confident, street smart kind of guy. Ray has a younger baby brother he helps raise and a mean, drunk, abusive father, the kind of guy who strikes fear in everyone's heart.

Surprisingly, the two boys become fast and loyal friends. They hold each other in high regard and soon are inseparable. They have another close friend, Frank, who is very straight-laced and into religion.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By GF on August 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It looks like I'm a minority of one. I expected to like this book, being familiar with the Brewster area and having come of age around the same time as the leading characters. And Slouka does a good job of portraying the environment and times. But too many things in the book irked me. The story is told from the point of view of the lead character, Jon, looking back from middle age. But he writes like an adolescent, with the overblown melodramatic intensity of a teenager. This could have worked in a young adult book written from an adolescent's perspective, but this is supposed to be from an adult's perspective. It rang false. Then there were the one and one-half dimensional villains, Jon's mom and Ray's dad. Jon's mom hates him because, when Jon was four-years-old, his older brother electrocuted himself. Somehow, she blames Jon for not preventing it, and she treats him with contempt for the rest of his life. Ray's dad is a drunken ex-cop whose sadistic and abusive behavior seems to draw no one's attention; apparently, there was no such thing as Child Protective Services in Brewster back in the late 60's. And finally, Slouka's writing style is so minimalist, that there were moments when I literally had no idea what had just transpired. I'd go back and read the preceding paragraphs again, looking for what I'd missed, but I didn't seem to miss anything: the author just seemed to assume we'd figure it out without his spelling it out. By the time I reached the predictable conclusion, I no longer cared about the characters.
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