- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (May 2, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374281440
- ISBN-13: 978-0374281441
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,466,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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White Guys: A Novel Hardcover – May 2, 2006
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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.
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
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Top customer reviews
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.
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.
I found the plot gripping and the characters very believable, especially Timmy and Billy (and the diminutive forms of their names nicely suggest how they never really become mature men). The detailed depictions of suburban life and its discontents felt very accurate. Also, deciding to make Timmy a sales rep for a college textbook publisher, whose cash cow is an outmoded, yet ever-popular literary anthology nicknamed "White Guys," is a clever metafictional move. But the novel's ultimate message about the costs of becoming white gets muddled when Billy emerges as the representative of what gets washed out by whiteness. If this symbolic figure and what he represents is so selfish, abusive, and ultimately worth leaving behind, then what's wrong with these guys becoming White Guys? The story ends with little sense of how real people like these guys, white or otherwise, could live a less angst-ridden, more genuine life. The root of such a life need not be located exclusively in a man's pants.
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. Ultimately, Timmy's flaws are more defining than the virtues he clings to, father, husband, decent man. White Guys tells a uniquely American story, a hardscrabble life turned unbearably successful, a rebellious young man thrust into the stifling pretensions of upwardly-mobile Boston suburbia and unable to deal with success. Giardina plays his scenes with delicate irony, reinforcing the tension that underlies decisions, right and wrong, easy compromises that beget painful insights; there are many exquisitely nuanced details in the novel, youthful angst, extended family demands, the need to belong;
Regardless of any flaws in the criminal act around which the novel revolves, I found the dense social ramifications compelling, "White Guys" leaving poverty behind for better lives, albeit burdened by expectations and Billy and Timmy's complicated relationship, the almost adolescent fixation the more moderate Tim has with the rebellious, unpredictable nature of his friend, caught in the crosshairs of fate. Giardina perfectly captures the self-interest and reluctance of a city st5irred up by a violent crime, refusing to acknowledge the racial tension that rides just below the surface, the tiny self-deceptions that allow people to believe themselves honorable while acting in their own best interests. Based on a real-life 1989 murder in Boston, White Guys has the same complicated layers of friendship so eloquently evoked in Mystic River, defined by time and place, class and aspirations. Luan Gaines/2007.