A meditation on manhood takes a turn into magical realism in this mesmerizing novel.
Sam, his father and his older brother are all coping—with varying degrees of success; Sam’s coping includes whiskey and frozen pizza—with Sam’s mother’s departure for Women’s Land. In an attempt to pull things together, his dad decides they will spend the summer on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Prickly yet lethargic, 17-year-old Sam gradually becomes intrigued by the mysterious, beautiful blonde girls who work at the hotels and restaurants there. Interspersed throughout Sam’s slightly sarcastic first-person narration are short, haunting prose poems from these sisters, who can’t swim though they come from the ocean and whose mother is the Deepness and whose father is the Endlessness. The girls seem to reinvent themselves as needed, much as they reinvent the island where they live, adding to the air of mystery. The brothers’ parents are vividly portrayed, particularly the once-frumpy mother who left their father in a “swamp of discontent”—which turns into a complete abandonment of his job and their usual life. The heart of the story centers on Sam’s gradual unfurling into a less brittle, kinder and more thoughtful youth. The writing, though realistically laced with the F-word and references to smoking and drinking, has a curiously appealing distance from the ordinary but doesn’t abandon it altogether.
A not-mermaid story for boys. (Magical realism. 14 & up)