From Publishers Weekly
Accomplished novelist Peck's account of his father's horrific 1950s Long Island childhood is reminiscent of Angela's Ashes both in scope and tone. This stateside reincarnation of a world dominated by an abusive alcoholic father may not leave readers laughing, but it certainly provides a similar lens on a boy's resilience and optimism. The story unfolds as Dale Peck Sr., at age 14, is rooted out of bed by his good-for-nothing father and unceremoniously dumped at an upstate New York dairy farm owned by his kind but unfamiliar Uncle Wallace. Peck Jr. (Now It's Time to Say Goodbye; The Law of Enclosures), writes a description of the journey from one world to another that is so evocative, it's easy to forget he wasn't actually the boy in the passenger's seat. About the frozen banks of a river they drive along, he writes, "The glacial shelves look like teeth to the boy, cartoon teeth breaking apart after biting on a rock hidden in blueberry pie, and the boy laughs quietly to himself when he imagines the river being fitted for dentures like the old man. A trip to the country, he reminds himself, attempting to relax again. A weekend adventure." This weekend adventure unfolds into months, then years, until finally Peck Sr.'s mother disrupts her son's haven by demanding his return to the misery of their overcrowded, impoverished household. The boy is torn, but ends up abandoning the warm web Wallace and his stoic wife, Bessie, have spun around him. He is quickly subsumed by the depressing life he narrowly escaped, and Peck subtly demonstrates how this determined boy will not just endure life, but embrace it.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Peck's account of his father Dale's horrific upbringing stuns the reader with its juxtaposition of hope, sadness, and loss. In 1956, Dale lives with seven siblings in a small house on Long Island. Their father, Lloyd (the author's grandfather), comes home drunk most nights; their mother regularly beats Dale, her least favorite, with a garden hose. In an attempt to extricate Dale from this dead-end existence, Lloyd "kidnaps" his son and drives him to the Catskills, where Loyd's brother runs a dairy farm. For almost a year, Dale learns how to milk the cows and mend fences; more important, he is enveloped in his aunt and uncle's stable routine and learns for the first time about familial love and respect. He misses his siblings, of course, and when his mother arrives with the others in tow, demanding his return, Dale is faced with a cruel decision. The author, whose novels have been highly praised for their unforgettable prose, again enriches the reader with luminous language, shining like pearls in the midst of his father's wrenching tale. Deborah DonovanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved