- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; First edition (January 2, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156031671
- ISBN-13: 978-0156031677
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 35 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #929,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Please Don't Come Back from the Moon Paperback – January 2, 2006
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"A beautifully smart, comic, and moving narrative about the fathers who disappear and the sons who take their place, Please Don't Come Back from the Moon is somehow both realistic and visionary . . . This is a wonderful book." -Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love
"Families, heartbreak, political and social comedy-there is little that Dean Bakopoulos doesn't grasp in an articulate, wittily perceptive, and soulful way, before he hands it back to the reader as literary art. Please Don't Come Back from the Moon is an original and brilliant first work of fiction."--Lorrie Moore
From the Inside Flap
The year Michael Smolij turns seventeen, his father disappears. One by one, other men, too, vanish from the blue-collar neighborhood outside Detroit where their fathers before them lived, raised families, and, in a more promising era, worked. One man props open the door to his shoe store and leaves a note. "I'm going to the moon," it reads. "I took the cash."
The wives drink, brawl and sleep around, gradually settling down to make new lives, and shaking off the belief in an American dream that, like their husbands, has proved to be a thing of the past. Unable to leave the neighborhood their fathers abandoned, Michael and his friends stumble through their twenties, until the restlessness of the fathers blooms in them, threatening to carry them away.
This is a haunting, unforgettable debut novel for anyone who has ever been left longing.
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"Streets full of people, all alone
Roads full of houses, never home
A church full of singing, out of tune
Everyone's gone to the moon."
(from "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" by Jonathan King)
It fits, because Bakopoulos has given us a strange and moving story which covers a twelve year period in the life of Michael Smolij, whose father drove away and disappeared one day when "Mikey" was sixteen. And Roman Smolij (who, judging from the fragmented memories Mikey has, was probably a manic depressive) was only one of many fathers who abandoned their familes in that devastating time of layoffs and downsizing. Fathers demoralized and ashamed that they could not provide for their families. Mikey's friends Nick and Tom were also left fatherless. So many fathers disappeared that year that the sons, left behind on the cusp of manhood, came up with a fantastic theory that they had all gone to the moon. And this is the somewhat surrealistic premise of Bakopoulos's story. A rather shaky basis for a novel, but, after a rather lumbering start, it takes off and engages your attention - it works.
Told in the first person by Mikey Smolij, who loses his virginity to one of the abandoned wives, then moves aimlessly from one relationship to another, working pointless minimum wage jobs and spends his free time drinking with his buddies. It is, I think, an accurate depiction of many rootless young men from that generation the media labeled "X."
There does seem to be an element of the magical and fantastic woven throughout Mikey's tale of teenage and then twenty-something angst, and you know he's headed for a possible repeat of the disappearing fathers act. Finally married with a couple kids, one night, in a nameless panic, he gets into his car and drives -
"My heart pumped away, skipping beats, on the verge of implosion. I drove out of the city, out of Detroit, and up toward Flint, then farther still, toward Alpena. By sunrise, I was very far away from the life I was living."
Mikey does turn around and go back, but this particular passage brought to mind another young man who got in his car and drove and drove, trying to escape his problems. Bakopoulos does not write like John Updike, but Mikey Smolij and his pals often reminded me of Harry Angstrom, who repeatedly panicked and ran from his entanglements and responsibilities. But Smolij is different from the jumpy anti-hero of Rabbit, Run; he has a conscience and lives more in his mind than just "inside his skin." This redeems him. He comes back and faces up to things. He loves his wife and his children. But he remains afraid. Afraid that things could fall apart, that he would be unable to take care of his family, that he would give up and disappear like his father did.
Another book I thought of while reading Bakopoulos was a memoir by another Detroit area writer, Sven Birkerts' My Sky Blue Trades: Growing Up Counter in a Contrary Time. Like Mikey Smolij, Birkerts was a reader, worked in a bookstore and had vague aspirations of writing.
Remembering my own scrambling days of college and grad school, already married with a baby, I could relate to Smolij's fears of not succeeding. It's a fear that I suspect many young husbands and fathers share, of not being able to provide, of not measuring up, and especially of the awful responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood. In that sense, PLEASE DON'T COME BACK FROM THE MOON is an Everyman tale.
I may have to try Bakopoulos's new one now. But his book, his first, was very good. I will recommend it highly.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
The book is narrated by Michael Smolij who is the son of a hard working, blue-collar dad and non practicing violinist mom who along with his friends and much of the town he lives in goes through an experience where their dads disappear one day. It is told that they went to the moon but in truth that is a metaphor for having just up and run away from what were difficult circumstances in a dying Detroit suburb. Michael has to more or less raise himself and his brother as his mom took on two jobs to support the family. We see Michael grow up pretty much ignoring school to send time with Nick and Tom his best friends. They get into all sorts of trouble but miraculously kind of make it out the other end pretty decently. We learn about Michael's various girlfriends and loves--some of which are quite passionate and serious. He settles down in the end with an unlikely co-worker and her son and they themselves have a daughter. The end of the book is kind of odd as we are returned to the theme of the moon and people going to the moon. It brings the reader into a bit of an alternate reality that I typically don't like in books---but the author does a good job not making it seem too totally crazy.
Overall a surprisingly good book. I thought it was going to be a science fiction-like thing based on the cover and short description but was pleased to see it was a book about the coming of age in tough times for a group of young men. I enjoyed it a great deal and recommend it to others.