Summary and book reviews of Finding Caruso by Kim Barnes

Finding Caruso

By Kim Barnes

Finding Caruso
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Mar 2003,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2004,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

Seven years separate Buddy from his big brother, Lee, but the boys have always been close, comforting and protecting each other as their father - defeated by poor land and hostile weather - sank deeper into alcohol and rage. When a drink-fueled accident takes not only his life but that of the mother who tried so hard to shield her sons, the boys sell off what little remains of their daddy's tenant farm and leave Oklahoma. It is 1957, and work is still to be had in the logging camps of northern Idaho. But just outside Snake Junction, they stop at a roadhouse; and there, Lee's country-and-western talents get him a job. The two settle in, Lee to his music-and women and drink - and seventeen-year-old Buddy to roaming the landscape, at loose ends until a woman nearly twice his age turns up. Irene Sullivan is a smoky beauty, and Lee makes a play for her. But it is Buddy she wants.

By turns darkly violent and heartbreakingly tender, Finding Caruso is a work of extraordinary emotional power from an astonishingly original writer.

August, sky paling. The humid Oklahoma air crowds in. The chickens have breasted their bowls of dirt; the hounds lie heat-sick beneath the porch. The smoke of Lee's cigarette does not rise but haloes around us. Only our father moves in the stillness, and the mare with him, a dance of retreat and retrieval.

"It's bad this time," Lee says.

I have come to join him at the fence, where we stand and watch our father trying to saddle the pinto mare.

We are brothers, Lee and I. Will always be. I am ten. He is seventeen. It is 1950, and our father is three days dry and angry. With the mare, who will not stand for the cinching. With our mother, who has turned him from her bed until he promises sobriety; with the two boys who have witnessed each new failure of strength and will.

His hands fist and tremble. The mare remembers punishment, cannot stop her nervous shying away, the flinching each time he elbows her gut.

I should go now, I think. Now is the time before it&#...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Chris Offutt
Kim Barnes writes with great honesty, beauty and compassion.... This book is terrific.

Kirkus Reviews - Sally Wofford-Girand

A Bronte-esque debut novel about wretched families, childhood grief, love and betrayal, by poet and memoirist Barnes - told in a polished if somewhat precious voice (I abide in the whisper of wind through an old mare's bones) that sounds more evocative of Greenwich Village than Idaho.

Library Journal

Celebrated for her stories, poetry, and memoirs-especially In the Wilderness, a Pulitzer contender-Barnes tries her hand at full-length fiction. Two brothers fleeing 1950s Oklahoma after their parents' death wind up in a honky-tonk town on the edge of nowhere, where the teenaged Buddy soon becomes the prey of an older woman.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Starred Review. Barnes is as fluent in provocative metaphors as in she in scenes of profound conflict and revelation--Buddy is forced to face the cruel consequences of family betrayals, racial hatred, and thwarted love.

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