The year is 1978. Ares Ramirez, age 12, lives with his mother, Laurel, and his younger brother Malcolm in a trailer at the edge of the Salton Sea, an unintentionally man-made body of water in the middle of the Southern California desert. It is a desolate, forgotten place, whose inhabitants thrive amidst seemingly impossible circumstances.
Where birds fly by day across the desert sky, by night government fighter planes and helicopters make training runs using live ammunition, and an anonymous dead body floats in from the sea. These events inspire Ares, on the cusp of his adolescence, to enact elaborate fantasies of mortal combat. His membership in a troubled family marks Ares as a casualty of a different kind of war. Malcolm, age 7, is mentally handicapped, and his mother chooses not to do anything about it.
Ares' struggle with the burden of responsibility -- to himself and to others -- draws him into a world of drugs, violence, and sex that he is not prepared for, launching him into a very personal battle for his own identity, one that has a lethal outcome.
"The characters are painted with compassion and unflinching honesty, and the climax is pithy and consequential." - Publishers Weekly.
"Starred Review. Finely wrought characters and an illuminating portrait of the secret world of autism makes for a powerful, often tragic tale." - Kirkus Reviews.
"Even though most readers will not have lived the tough life that Ares has, they are sure to relate to his search for a place in the world. Highly recommended for most collections." - Library Journal.
"[A] novel of great metaphorical depth and beauty. It stays with you like a lesson well and truly learned." - Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls.
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Marisa Silver is the author of the novels The God of War (a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), and No Direction Home. She made her fiction debut in The New Yorker when she appeared in the inaugural Debut Fiction issue. Her collection of stories, Babe in Paradise, was a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Silver's work has been included in Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry Prize Stories. She lives in Los Angeles.
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