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Romey's Place: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Revell (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800732383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800732387
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,733,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Smalltown "church-ruled" Easton, Wis., takes center stage in Schaap's (In the Silence There Are Ghosts) earnest, thoughtful coming-of-age novel. As middle-aged Lowell Prins helps his elderly father to sort through the belongings of a lifetime, he reflects on the fateful events of his last summer before high school during the late 1950s. His recollections soon become a study in contrasts, juxtaposing two very different fathers, and their sons, who have more in common with their fathers than they would like to think. Lowell's dad, Pete, is a "big-time Christian" and the town "saint." Cyril Guttner, the abusive father of Lowell's best friend, Romey, is the town pariah. In the black-and-white world of 1950s EastonAwhere gangs of kids picking green beans constitute a youth culture and an unpardonable sin is being caught in the girls' barracks at Bible campAmoral issues loom large. The retrospective account of this fateful period in Lowell's life is, for the most part, a familiar litany of youthful experiences (stealing cigarettes, finding summer jobs, attending town dances), but Lowell and Romey's religious discussions differentiate it from similar tales. Romey half-reveres and half-resents Lowell's faith, just as Lowell simultaneously admires and fears Romey's tough-talking ways. When events culminate in a misguided prank that turns deadly, a confrontation between fathers, sons and the town is inevitable. Looking back on those events, Lowell, now the curator for a small county museum, must come to terms with the rigid righteousness, which he sees as his father's legacy and which he blames for poisoning his friendship with Romey. Religious devotion, family loyalty and the dynamics of friendship are ultimately seen as issues subject to several moral interpretations, and Lowell finally understands that "if my father taught me goodness... Romey taught me grace." (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

James Schaap's most recent novel, Romey's Place, is the story of two boys whose fierce friendship springs from their differences, and is ultimately reshaped by them.... This compelling story of their coming-of-age is laced with the silent realities of social class in a small Wisconsin town. Ultimately, Romey's Place is about the human struggle to understand what faithfulness to God, family, and community demands, and their conflictive pulls. From the first chapter... to the stunning and unexpected conclusion, this is a riveting story about moral righteousness, grace, and the chasm that can lie between them. -- The Other Side, January/February 2000

Lowell Prins, son of a small-town minister, promises us that thestory he's about to tell has shaped his life. "What happened there years ago," he solemnly tells us, "I will never forget." This promise (repeated over and over as Prins wanders from one adolescent crisis to another) keeps us hanging on until the unforgettable event actually takes place (thirty pages from the end). Even then, the payoff is diminished by Schaap's narrative technique, which continually overlays the voice of the adolescent Lowell with the intrusive editorializing of the adult Prins....This distance imposed between the reader and the novel's events Makes Romey's Place as compelling as a set of vacation slides, complete with narration. At every turn, the adult Lowell turns up again, telling us exactly what each event means in stultifying detail. ....Schaap is so busy telling us what to think of these scenes that we're never permitted to experience them. He doesn't trust his readers; he has to spell it all out. This editorializing voice drowns his story - and finally kills our interest. -- From Beliefnet

Richly authentic and beautifully written, Romeys Place captivated me from beginning to end. This evocative, Tom Sawyer-like tale set in the early 50s may well be Schaaps finest work yet -- John Timmerman, professor of English, Calvin College

Romey Guttner lives in Wisconsin, not Mississippi, but his story of devotion to an unworthy father is just as poignant as Faulkners short story Barn Burning. Jim Schaaps novel has an additional dimension, however. How does the narrator, no longer youthful, forgive his own father for his oppressive righteousness? For those with eyes willing to see, this work shows the chasm between a well-intentioned piety and reckless rebels. The moral suspense it generates makes clear just how much is at stake here -- Virginia Stem Owens, author

Romeys Place is a novel of deceptive ease and simplicity. With long, confident, perfectly accurate strokes, Schaap paints the social landscape of small town America. So familiar, so well textured and convincing is his portrait that we find ourselves swiftly and deeply involved in itand in an experience which is anything but small. Here the conflicts are dramatic, powerful, and complex. Schaap writes at the bone of human interaction, where matters economic, spiritual, social, and moral knit and rip the fabrics of community. He knows the gravity of common things -- Walter Wangerin, author of The Book of the Dun Cow and The Book of God: The Bible as a Novel

Today many dramatic, high-concept novels, tales of apocalypse, conspiracy, and medical experimentation, shout for the attention of readers scanning the shelves of Christian fiction. But a few, like Romey's Place, stand out for quietly conveying sharp spiritual insights glimpsed in the dramas of ordinary life. Schaap skillfully transports readers to a small Wisconsin town in the late 1950s through the eyes of 14-year-old Lowell Prins, the son of a leading church family, and best friends with Romey Guttner, whose family lives on the wrong side of the tracks.... For a season Lowell and Romey share a friendship that bridges the gulf between their worlds. At times they test the boundaries of their behavior. But only when a labor conflict in the town gets out of hand and a confrontation with Romey's dad turns violent, does Lowell discover from an unexpected source the meaning of grace. -- Moody, January/February 2000

With an ominous, unsettling story line, this novel ferries readers back to the late 1950s.... More than a coming-of-age story, Romeys Place offers a thought-provoking, detail-rich narrative that literature buffs will savor -- CBA Marketplace, November 1999

[An] earnest, thoughtful coming-of-age novel -- Publishers Weekly, Aug. 30, 1999 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

James C. Schaap teaches literature and writing at Dordt College in Sioux City, Iowa, and is an award-winning author.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Ribbens on December 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book made me wonder if Schaap was secretly writing about me and my childhood friend. Same type of small town. Same type of fathers and families and churches. Same type of childhood experiences and thoughts in many ways.
But moreover, it was thought provoking in the way it looked at how we grew up, learned the things we learned about life and our "faith" and so much about the influences our parents have on our lives long beyond when we move out and start our own lives. It hit home on how other people in our life change the way we are and will be and that we indeed have that ability to change others also.
Deeply moving and takes a whole new approach on the whole concept of Christ's gift of GRACE. How we learn it, receive it and dispense it.
Well done and worth reading....maybe twice. Great for a discussion group!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. Schaap has given us one of the finer reads in inspirational fiction. In terms of quality, voice, style, and most of all, story, this novel stands leagues above many others that have garnered far more attention and plaudits in the "Christian fiction" category. In addition, his own Christian worldview shines through without hitting his readers over the head with the more common tactic of "sermonizing." It's too bad this novel hasn't received the recognition it so obviously deserves.
I applaud the book and look forward to the author's next work.
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Format: Paperback
Set in the Wisconsin of the 1950s, ROMEY'S PLACE is a sepia-toned story about a summer that would change the lives of two boys forever. Romey Guttner and Lowell Prins (Lobo for short) were an odd couple --- best friends from different sides of the tracks, or, in this case, different sides of God.

Lowell grew up in a churchgoing household, his father and grandfather pillars of the Christian community in Easton, Wisconsin. And he himself embraced the faith of his family, albeit with reservations and sometimes even embarrassment. Romey, on the other hand, is the son of Cyril Guttner, the town's most notorious bully, a man so mean that the fear people feel in his presence is from the unknown. He seems capable of anything.

ROMEY'S PLACE is a study in contrasts between Cyril and Lobo's dad, the lessons these men taught their sons, and the lessons these sons taught each other. The drama of the book centers on mostly youthful hijinks the summer before the two entered high school --- stealing cigarettes, working at picking beams to make pocket money, sneaking into the girl's cabin at camp. This should suggest that drama is a strong word for the slow boil that makes up the vast majority of the book. But looming in the background is a union strike that surges forward with the specter of violence at unexpected moments. The strike is like a political manifestation of Cyril (an agitator in the union) himself --- mercurial, hard to predict and hard to reason with.

The story is told in flashback as a 50-something Lowell helps his dad clean out the house in preparation for downsizing into a retirement home. It's what he doesn't find in a closet, an heirloom bayonet he lost that summer so long ago, that sends him careening down memory lane.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By LP King on August 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Have to be honest: Each chapter should have been 5-10 pages shorter. Schaap is a good writer, but as another reviewer mentioned, he "tells" as much, or more, than he shows. Intelligent readers don't need to be told all the emotional, spiritual conclusions. And as for it being a "slow boil," that is exactly correct. You'll need a lot of free-time to wade through it. A decent book, but should have been better.
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