From Publishers Weekly
Born poor, black and brilliant in a Boston ghetto, the unnamed man of the title is, at 35, crashing at a friend's place in New York , trying to scrape up enough money to keep his family afloat. As he reluctantly returns to the construction jobs that he thought he'd left behind and works to collect on old debts (and defer his own), he narrates his Boston bildung
and traces his early years and the history of his relationship with his white Boston Brahmin wife, Claire. His childhood was marked by parental neglect and early experiments with heavy alcohol consumption. A natural writer, he was taken under the wing of a prominent black intellectual during his college years, but didn't follow through as his relationship with Claire and then the demands of married life intensified. Now, as he struggles to support a life he isn't sure he believes in, he is tempted to return to drink, give up on his marriage and abandon his children, although Claire has demonstrated her unwavering support. For all of the introspection and occasional indulgence in self-pity, the narrator retains a note of hard-won optimism, and Thomas resolutely steers him clear of sentimentality. (Jan.)
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*Starred Review* The brooding narrator in Thomas' stream-of-consciousness first novel recites a mantra, "It is a strange thing to go through life as a social experiment." African American (or, more accurately, "Black Irish Indian"), he was a precocious child. Bused to white schools in Boston, gifted as a poet and a musician, and assured he would transcend his alcoholic parents' troubles, he developed his own drinking habit instead and deep-sixed an academic career. Now about to turn 35, married to a white woman, and a father, he has been dragged off course by a tidal wave of pain and despair and must reconstruct their dismantled Brooklyn life before the summer ends. Battered by bitter memories, and paralyzed by the poison of prejudice, which is tainting his relationships with his loving wife and sons, he works carpentry jobs, goes for long late-night runs, and seeks to exorcise his demons. By evoking the tension, longing, and beauty of the great and grinding city, summoning the mysterious power of the sea, and drawing on Melville and Ellison, Thomas has written a rhapsodic and piercing post-9/11 lament over aggression, greed, and racism, and a ravishing blues for the soul's unending loneliness. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved