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White Guys: A Novel Paperback – May 15, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The real-life 1989 murder of Charles Stuart's pregnant wife, supposedly by a black assailant, gripped Boston and exposed racial and class tensions that pulsed through the city's neighborhoods. Giardina's intelligent fourth novel (after Recent History) riffs off those events, but keeps the focus on class and the title ethnicity. Growing up in working-class Winship, north of Boston, Tim O'Kane is an "ethnic runt," the lone Irish boy among a group of three Italians. He and two of his friends go to college and graduate into differing classes of good jobs—district attorney, real estate developer and, in Tim's case, textbook salesman. Tim marries a woman with a wealthy father, buys a house in the suburbs and finds himself alienated. Tim and Co. are regularly drawn back to Winship and to the company of their former group leader, Billy Mogavero, still charismatic but also still living at home. Tim and Billy pull each other into their respective worlds, with Billy getting taken up by bourgeois Boston—at least until Billy's new wife is murdered. Like Ron Carlson and Richard Ford, Giardina pinpoints the pleasures and anxieties that come with wife, children and a big front lawn. He keeps readers guessing about who committed the murder, but the real payoff is what the crime reveals about Tim's tightly manufactured life. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

As adolescents, Tim O'Kane and his friends are enamored with Billy Mogavero. Perhaps it is his ease with women, or his vaguely homoerotic advances, or even the nonchalant way he beats a cop senseless on prom night. However, years later, seeing his friends pursuing the typical suburban family life, Billy attempts to follow suit--a professional job, a wife, and a nice house complete with apple trees--but he always seems a bit averse to the lifestyle. Then, one horrific night, there is a shooting. His wife and unborn child are killed, and Billy escapes with only minor injuries. When no suspects can be fingered, Billy's increasingly erratic behavior garners whispers that he killed his own family. Tim, still somewhat under the adolescent thrall to Billy, struggles to convince himself that his friend is innocent, but, finally, he sees there is indeed a monster inside him. Drawn from real-life events in the early 1990s, this novel attempts to explain what can drive a man to desperate ends, but, ultimately, there can be no sense made of senseless, appalling violence. Ian Chipman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (May 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312426127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312426125
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,646,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
In blue collar Winship, Massachusetts in the 1970s, Timmy O'Kane idolizes tough guy Billy Mogavero, fascinated by the easy danger he carries like a badge of honor. Twenty years later, Timmy has married to advantage, enjoying a more than comfortable suburban life, one he always believed unattainable. Eventually, even Billy has a chance at the gold ring, an opportunity for employment in mall development thanks to the intercession of his childhood friends. After marriage, Billy's only apparent disappointment is his wife's inability to carry a baby to term. As always, Timmy remains in thrall to Billy's magnetism, constantly judging the quality of his own life against his friend's casual cynicism: "I'm your little excursion into the world." But when Billy and his once-again pregnant wife are shot one night near the projects in South Boston, only Billy survives, the public stunned by the crime, especially when Billy describes the assailant as a black man. Suddenly Billy is a tragic hero, his boyhood friends rallying to his side, only Tim left with unanswered questions as the relationship between the two men is strained by unspoken doubts: "I played a game with darkness... I believed I could escape it if the actual thing came too near."

A subtle shift occurs in the friendship, reflected in Timmy's reluctance to confront the truth, hiding behind the growing problems of his own marriage and financial dependence on an interfering father-in-law. Never quite trusting his own definition of manhood, it is Tim's constant re-evaluation of his choices that leads to his undoing, his conscience piqued more by self-interest than a desire to do the right thing. Billy, the thorn in Tim's side, senses his friend's ambivalence, amused by it and counting on its predictability.
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Format: Hardcover
I was lucky enough to read this novel (which I strongly recommend) without having known about the real-life murder on which it's based. If you're tempted to read it and don't know about that murder yet either, I suggest waiting until afterward to find out about it. The novel's suspense will work better for you that way, and anyway, it's not really about that murder; instead Giardina uses the actual event as a springboard for a thoughtful, poignantly observed consideration of what happens to markedly ethnic guys who climb up the social scale and become bleached-out "white guys." Race, class, gender, and sexuality all come into play in intriguing, believable, unforced ways, even if the final messages about how these whitened guys might have lived better lives gets muddled.

Early on, protagonist Timmy O'Kane is an Irish American member of a group of Italian American friends. As teenagers they horse around in familiar ways, but one boy, Billy, is rougher than the others, more virile, edgy, and dangerous. Soon, Billy stays behind and leads a working-class life while the others go from "wise guys" to "white guys," by going to college and then by finding appropriate houses, kids, and wives in the suburbs. As you might expect, these typical yuppies soon realize during regular steak-booze-and-cigar gatherings that despite their apparent success, something is missing. When they go back to The Neighborhood, one of them hires Billy for a cushy, high-paying job, and his gutsy, testicular swagger, combined with his ongoing ability to bed any woman he wants and his knowing scorn for the trappings of their emasculated lives, soon come to represent, especially for Timmy, the vitality that they've left behind.
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Format: Paperback
This book had been on my shelf for a couple months before I found time to read it. I'm very glad I did. Like some of the other reviewers, I had no idea that this was based on a real event...and it would not have made a difference to me. I absolutely loved this novel.

Giardina beautifully captures the conflicts of masculinity in his muscular prose, deftly hidden emotions and those that are painfully revealed, and the evolving relationships his characters display. Sometimes knowing too much about a story before reading it subtracts essential emotional elements from the telling, so I'm glad I didn't know beforehand that this was a fictionalized version of the tragic murder of Charles Stuart's wife. This allowed me to immerse myself in the tension, the poetry of the language, and the story itself.

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