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One of the Boys: A Novel Hardcover – March 14, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of March 2017: One of the Boys is an intense, immersive, debut novel that is a shining example of precision storytelling. A 12-year-old boy and his older brother are forced to take sides in their parents’ bitter divorce, and what follows is both unexpected and heartbreaking. Convinced that their mother was the villain of their family story, a frightening truth starts to show through the cracks as they begin a new life with their father. As their father spirals into addiction, the narration of a young boy’s confusion and increasing fear offers powerful insight into an experience most of us can’t begin to imagine. The strength the brothers give each other is a testimony to their bond and how they will find a way out of the increasing violence and irrational behavior that pulls at them like quicksand. Author Daniel Magariel tells a harrowing story of guilt and betrayal tempered by flashes of absurdity and grace that left me deeply grateful for the journey. --Seira Wilson, The Amazon Book Review
“Feral and tender . . . a gorgeously tight tale swelling with wisdom about the self-destructive longing for paternal approval and the devastating consequences of clinging to rotten models of masculinity. . . . Magariel’s gripping and heartfelt debut is a blunt reminder that the boldest assertion of manhood is not violence stemming from fear. It is tenderness stemming from compassion.” (The New York Times Book Review)
“A knockout debut... A shimmering, heartbreaking portrait of children fiercely devoted to a damaged parent and of the intense sibling bond that helps them through.” (People)
"A slim, deeply affecting and brutal story, One of the Boys is about the fierce power of a father-son relationship... what Magariel achieves is a novel that makes readers feel what it would be like to live on high alert all the time; to be at the mercy of a father's addictions, crackpot whims and surges of violence. He also makes us feel what it would be like to still love such a father. The subject of One of the Boys is archetypal, but Magariel's novel depicts it with the power of stark revelation. We cannot turn away." (NPR, Fresh Air)
"Striking... A novel of short, blunt, often powerful sentences... Musical and painterly." (Boston Globe)
"One of the most striking debut novels of the year... one of the most affecting portrayals of the bonds that keep us tied to family... It's [his] compassion and deep understanding of the dynamics of addiction that make Daniel Magariel's slim book an important one." (Rolling Stone)
"Brilliant, urgent, darkly funny, heartbreaking—a tour de force with startling new things to say about class, masculinity, addiction, and family. Daniel Magariel is an exciting new presence in American writing." (George Saunders, author of Tenth of December and Lincoln in the Bardo)
"Precise and coiled and urgent. Magariel is able--as few writers can--to say so much in so little. A propulsive and intense debut." (Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life)
"Intense, harrowing and brilliantly written... Brutally honest and lyrically compelling... Shows a mastery of control and a labyrinth of nuance... Stunning." (Providence Journal)
“With a charismatic, macho, drug-addicted dad, the young narrator pays an awful price to be One of the Boys in the riveting debut novel by Daniel Magariel. Move over Great Santini, this patriarch is rendered with such artful love, you'll be haunted by his presence long after you close this graceful and heartbreaking book.” (Mary Karr, author of Lit and The Liar's Club)
"A captivating portrait of a wayward father, brimming with charm and trouble." (Justin Torres, author of We the Animals)
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After what seems to be a messy divorce predicated by abuse, a father and his two sons move from Kansas to New Mexico to start over after “the war” (the divorce, as the father calls it). The story is written from the perspective of the younger son who is twelve. The boys attempt to fit in at their new schools while the father works from home, but eventually the father begins using substances heavily. He becomes paranoid and abusive (both physically and psychologically).
After reading that summary, you’re probably wondering, “Where is the end?” Well…after finishing reading, there doesn’t really seem to be one. The boys, their father, and their mother (who is still in Kansas) seem to continue these patterns of quasi-normalcy, substance abuse, abuse, and then repeat. The boys become enablers for their father’s substance use and avoid his wrath (and presence) whenever possible.
Reading this was depressing, as I’m sure it was intended to be. No end in sight of this pattern of behavior for these kids who are in their teens. I can’t help but wonder how this will affect them long-term. The writing was very good – very descriptive, and in some parts almost beautiful. If a writer can make you feel as horrible as you feel at the end of this book, then they have done something right (because otherwise we wouldn’t feel for the characters).
Do I suggest reading this book? It depends, do you want to be made depressed on purpose? If you want to learn what it can be like to live in a substance-dominated household, then yes, most definitely read this. You’ll feel worse than when you started reading and may even struggle to finish it because you can feel that nothing is changing any time soon.
Two teenage brothers. The younger one narrates, but I didn’t stick around to see which one would turn out to be the title character. Dad escapes Mom with the boys for a wild ride from Kansas to New Mexico. Dad is a dysfunctional druggie with a Superman complex, yet the boys stick with him despite his pathetic misadventures. I know this because I peeked at the last page, and there they are, Dad and the boys, vrooming off on another wild ride. The book’s cover says it’s “brilliant, urgent, darkly funny, heartbreaking,” but you can’t judge a book by its cover.