Book of Ralph: A Novel / Edition 1by John McNally
Pub. Date: 04/19/2005
Publisher: Free Press
Remember Ralph? He was the kid who failed grade school not once but twice, the kid who was constantly, unwaveringly up to no good. He was the outsider you avoided at all costs. But who precisely was Ralph? And whatever happened to him? The Book of Ralph, a resonant tale of boys growing up together, reintroduces you to the Ralph you once knew. Suffused with wit and charm, this dazzling story draws readers inexorably into the lives and antics of Hank -- a good boy, a B+ student -- and his troublemaking classmate Ralph, who takes Hank to places he has never dreamed of -- places on the edge, sometimes, of genuine danger. It is 1978 in Chicago. Hank wants eighth grade to be his big year to shine. But when Ralph starts acting as if he and Hank are best friends, things don't go quite according to plan -- in fact, Hank's special year spirals into an odyssey that is as frightening as it is hilarious, as poignant as it is bizarre.
Reluctant cohort though he may be, Hank nonetheless joins forces with Ralph and his older cousins, Norm and Kenny, employees of the Tootsie Roll factory; together, they wreak havoc over Chicago's southwest side. For good or ill, Hank's right there by his side when, for instance, Ralph becomes a thug-for-hire and starts stalking a fellow eighth-grader with plans to bite off his ear (rate: $15.00). For his part, Ralph proves his loyalty in unexpected ways, including a show of solidarity with Hank's grandmother when she's hauled in for a series of shoe-store robberies. Through it all, in a year that sees the rise of Styx, Cheap Trick, and Kiss, Hank doesn't win the popularity or acclaim he'd hoped eighth grade would bring. But as the adult world seems increasingly opportunistic and indifferent, his alliance with Ralph offers him an escape, and even some wisdom. By the end of the school year, though, unanticipated events have altered the nature of their friendship, possibly forever.
John McNally, an award-winning author and an exciting new voice in fiction, presents a delightful, warm-hearted coming-of-age tale replete with the terrors and wonders of early adolescence. Hank and Ralph are an irresistible and entirely surprising blend of wise beyond their years and awestruck at the world made available to them as high school approaches. Beautiful in its plainspoken insight into the experience of teenage boys and all human beings, this story exquisitely renders those flashes of transcendence that can occur in everyday life. As they seek to survive eighth grade, a bad economy, and threadbare family lives, Hank and Ralph give us a window into the ties that bind us together, hold us back, and sometimes redeem us.
- Free Press
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Table of Contents
|The Present: 1978-1979||1|
|The Price of Pain||23|
|South Side Records||105|
|The Book of Ralph||115|
|The Bear at Your Front Door||139|
|The Grand Illusion||167|
|The Past: 1975||187|
|A Diagram of the Future||189|
|The Future: 2001||207|
|Brains of the Operation||209|
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This has got to be one of the funniest, laugh out loud books I have ever read! I am from the southside of Chicago, growing up in the 70s and boy could I relate to the hangouts, school, cars, houses, kids, etc... Awesome writing and filled with guffaws!!
This book is fabulously funny! I laughed out loud often. I have a very sarcastic sense of humor, and this book had me doubled over laughing, so it would especially be recommended for people with that sense of humor. It wasn't a hard read by any means, but totally enjoyable and worth the money.
I first read the short story 'Book of Ralph' in a copy of the Idaho Review, a yearly journal of short stories. The writing was simplistic yet captured my attention: it was the first story I ever read twice in one sitting. I spoke with the editor of the Idaho Review, and he said that 'The Book of Ralph' was the first story ever submitted to recieve a unanimous vote from the editors--they loved the warmth that comes from its mesh of humor, reality, and remorse. The book, 'The Book of Ralph,' is a novel in stories--a collection of short stories that can be read individually, or taken as a whole to form an overarching story. There are a few instances when the narrator repeats himself, such as explaining that Ralph has been hald back a few grades, but these instances are minor and are used to keep the stories relatively independent of each other. Other than that, the flow is seemless. My only regret was that the book couldn't go on forever.