The year is 1968. The world is changing, and sixteen-year-old Jon Mosher is determined to change with it. Racked by guilt over his older brother's childhood death and stuck in the dead-end town of Brewster, New York, he turns his rage into victories running track. Meanwhile, Ray Cappicciano, a rebel as gifted with his fists as Jon is with his feet, is trying to take care of his baby brother while staying out of the way of his abusive, ex-cop father. When Jon and Ray form a tight friendship, they find in each other everything they lack at home, but it's not until Ray falls in love with beautiful, headstrong Karen Dorsey that the three friends begin to dream of breaking away from Brewster for good. Freedom, however, has its price. As forces beyond their control begin to bear down on them, Jon sets off on the race of his life - a race to redeem his past and save them all.
Mark Slouka's work has been called "relentlessly observant, miraculously expressive" (New York Times Book Review). Reverberating with compassion, heartache, and grace, Brewster is an unforgettable coming-of-age story from one of our most compelling novelists.
"Starred Review.The stripped-down prose style in [this] masterful coming-of-age novel recalls the likes of Tobias Wolff and Raymond Carver." - Publishers Weekly
"He's not far off. For literary fiction fans who want to exchange a few hours for a valuable look back at the not-all-halcyon Sixties." - Library Journal
"Slouka writes affectingly about small-town life. He's especially good at conveying what it's like to live in a loveless, but not malign, household like Jon's. The book moves at a rapid and accelerating pace, and with ruthless precision, toward a surprising conclusion. But it takes shortcuts, indulging in a kind of sepia hokeyness at times and at others in a darkness that is too schematic and easy, that relies on a villainy that's not quite believable. Flawed, but unmistakably the work of an accomplished writer." - Kirkus
"Reading Brewster is like entering the very heart of a Bruce Springsteen song - all grace, all depth, all sinew. Slouka - one of the great unsung writers of our time - has written a magnificent novel that woke my tired heart." - Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin
"The dark undertow of Slouka's prose makes Brewster instantly mesmerizing, a novel that whirls the reader into small-town, late 1960s America with mastery, originality, and heart." - Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
"Mark Slouka's masterful new novel is as tough as the town it is set in, that wintery Brewster where 'it felt like somebody twice as strong as you had their hand around your throat.' Brewster, the novel, seizes the reader in just the same way - art pitiless and powerful, unflinching, and authentic." - Christine Schutt, author of Prosperous Friends
"If ecstasy was Nabokov's keynote, Slouka's is passion. I can think of no one else who writes with such brazen fervor, with so much heart poured into every line. He is the perfect writer for a Passion Play about youth: youth's ardor, youth's anguish, youth's nakedness. Brewster is that novel, and it blazes." - Brian Hall, author of Fall of Frost
"This beautifully written coming-of-age story sings with wisdom and heart. Slouka's characters struggle to survive against a backdrop of remembered pain, routine violence and the threat of being drafted to Vietnam, fighting to retain a friendship that may just be able to save them." - Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River
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Rated of 5
Late 60's, in a small town called Brewster in New York, three boys and a young girl come of age. Charles Manson was in the news, being drafted for the Vietnam War was a real threat and Woodstock was happening a short distance away, these were circumstances happening outside their homes, but the real threat and the hurt would come from the place they should have been the safest, their own homes.
I was very young during this time period but I remember my best friend's brother being drafted, seeing him in his uniform, leaving for boot camp, wondering if he would have any life left when he returned.. Jon and Ray are such wonderful characters, dealing with the hurts in their families in the only way they knew how. Good boys, troubled boys, boys the reader becomes emotionally involved with, want to save. Heartbreaking and powerful, such a wonderful and poignant book, nostalgic, the tone of the time, perfect. Jon, runs track and that becomes his outlet. Ray, and his family secrets, things he must not tell and a little brother that he loves and to whom he feels responsible. First love and friendship in all its glory and hardship. All seniors wondering how their lives will play out, how the world would change, where they would find themselves in the future.
As they enter the seventies, things will change, the pace of the books speeds up and a horrifying and heartbreaking incident will leave them all reeling, and all their lives will never be the same. As Jon track coach tells him, "You'll be okay, "You can't see it now, but life goes on." That's the thing - it goes on with or without you."
Maybe it's the weather, or that it is getting dark so early and is a bit depressing, but I think this is only the second book that I finished with a lump in my throat and a tissue in my hand., Friendship, pain and memories, the resilience of the human experience.
Mark Slouka is the child of Czech immigrants, and draws on his personal experience and the inevitable intrusions of the past on the present. He is the author of the novel Gods Fool, named a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, the short story collection Lost Lake, a New York Times Notable Book in 1998, and the nonfiction work War of the Worlds. Three of his essays have been selected for inclusion in The Best American Essays, and his short story The Woodcarvers Tale won the National Magazine Award for fiction. He is a contributing editor at Harpers Magazine, and is the director for the writing program at the University of Chicago.
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