From Publishers Weekly
A trailer park in the Plains town of Tenderloin is the setting of this crusty coming-of-age debut, which features some of the liveliest characters just this side of believable that one is apt to meet in a contemporary novel. The first-person narrator is a moral but susceptible 11-year-old called Dough, who lusts after his fifth-grade teacher and idolizes his trouble-making older brother, Pill-Bug. The boys, who are new to the town and shamed by the stigma of living in a trailer, were named by a father who wanted them to remain tough and who ended up dying while smuggling cigarettes along a Texas highway. Their mother and her new boyfriend, French, are low-life swingers, allowing the siblings to spend nights with Val, who entertains a slew of men but whom Dough worships as a virginal Madonna. Dough's own adoring friend is Lottie, a slightly deranged girl who offers Dough a gift of one of her taxidermist father's specimens; meanwhile, Pill-Bug earns a special affection from Lunna, a high school's floozy. Each character is vividly described (sometimes exhaustingly so) in one vignette or several, as are Chief, the Native American gas station owner who sells Dough cigarettes and tells a story of male initiation; Shilo, the fight-scarred dog with three legs and one eye; and El Rey del Perdito, the "King of the Tango," who dances all night to avoid mourning his dead wife. Often charming if sometimes overwritten, the novel is full of labyrinthine explanations and bizarre details delivered in poetic language. Meno's passionate new voice makes him a writer to watch.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A rambling and oddly good-natured debut describing a childhood spent on the wrong side of the tracks. Any number of novels have been written about unhappy childhoods and bizarre families, but this one surpasses manyat least on the weirdo scale. Narrated by Dough Lunt, its a recollection of his first years in the aptly named western town of Tenderloin, where he and his brother Pill were moved when their mothers boyfriend found work at the local meat-packing factory. The Lunt boys, having grown up in Duluth, are not quite prepared for life among the rednecks, and the trailer park where their mother deposits them doesnt exactly introduce them to the cream of Tenderloin society. French, their mothers pothead boyfriend, moves in with them, and soon he and Mrs. Lunt are hosting swingers parties every Friday, while Dough and Pill find themselves in school with the kind of backwoods girls who can perform sex acts long before they know what menstruation is. Still fairly innocent at the age of 11, Dough is nevertheless well accustomed to the sight of grownups copulating on sofas and pulling knives on their girlfriendsand, eventually, he takes up religion in a half-hearted attempt to put order and a modicum of decency into his life. Meno arranges his tale episodically, concentrating on specific characters or incidents in each chapter (the tango dancer who moves into the trailer next door, or the birthday party spoiled by bickering relatives). Although extremely vivid, it suffers badly from this arrangement, which provides no central narrative to make its parts cohere. The final effect is somewhat pointless. Less than the sum of its parts, Menos story would have made a few good sketches. As a novel, though, it has the stilted, heavy feel of a wingless bird trying to fly. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.