Brewster: A Novel

Brewster: A Novel

3.6 16
by Mark Slouka
     
 

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A 2013 Booklist Editors’ Choice: Best Adult Books for Young Adults

A powerful story about an unforgettable friendship between two teenage boys and their hopes for escape from a dead-end town.

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&

Overview

A 2013 Booklist Editors’ Choice: Best Adult Books for Young Adults

A powerful story about an unforgettable friendship between two teenage boys and their hopes for escape from a dead-end town.

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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Eleanor Henderson
…a powerfully nostalgic novel steeped in innocence and idleness…Slouka's storytelling is sure and patient, deceptively steady and devastatingly agile. Like Ray, the profoundly lovable hero, Brewster is full of secrets, and they are tragic ones: there is no sadder fate than being hated by someone who should love you. Yet the story manages to transcend its hopeless circumstances. All the tender feelings these kids' parents should feel for them are transferred to us. We love them. They are our children, and in loving them, they are saved, and so are we.
Publishers Weekly
A simmering rage coupled with world-weary angst grip the four teenagers growing up as friends in Slouka’s (Lost Lake) hardscrabble novel, set in the small blue-collar town of Brewster, N.Y., where the author grew up. Jon Mosher—once a scholarship-winning high school track star, now a wistful, glum adult—narrates the group’s tragic experiences during the winter of 1968. Feeling alienated from his community and his parents, German-Jewish émigrés Sam and Vera, Jon first befriends the “erratic” Ray Cappiciano, who always looks banged up, supposedly from semipro middleweight boxing matches in out-of-town venues like the Bronx. The third friend, Frank Krapinski, is a javelin thrower and devout Christian. Rounding out the quartet is attractive Karen Dorsey, who rejects Jon’s romantic interest to date the edgier Ray. Ray’s father, a disturbed, sadistic ex-cop and WWII vet who collects Nazi body parts, supplies an undercurrent of violence that haunts the four teenagers’ lives before boiling over at the surprising climax. Slouka’s laconic dialogue resonates with regional authenticity, his late-1960s pop culture references ring true, and the stripped-down prose style in his masterful coming-of-age novel recalls the likes of Tobias Wolff and Raymond Carver. Agent: Bill Clegg, WME Entertainment. (Aug.)
Jennifer Egan
“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.”
Christine Schutt
“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.”
Bonnie Jo Campbell
“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.”
Karen Ann Cullotta - BookPage
“Despite delving bravely into despairingly dark subject matter, [Brewster] is still somehow infused with hope and light, achieving a sort of literary chiaroscuro.… Brewster could become the latest addition to the American canon of coming-of-age stories, enchanting readers with its soulful story of love, loss and the vagaries of the teenage heart.”
New York Times Book Review
“[I]ntense and elegiac novel… Slouka’s storytelling is sure and patient, deceptively steady and devastatingly agile.”
Adam Langer - Boston Globe
“Terrific…. [W]here Slouka distinguishes himself as an author of particular sensitivity and significance is in how accurately and memorably he is able to conjure up a particular mood that has no doubt been felt in every era, not just the late '60s and early '70s. There is a timeless sense of yearning here.”
John Barron - Chicago Tribune
“Evocative… gorgeously written… both spare and highly dramatic. Slouka has an exceptional ear for the way kids talk, an eye for the detail of a not-so-recent past …. In Brewster, Slouka creates a messy miniature. It's a tight, little world where …the subjects—human frailty, friendship, yearning, heart and love—don't make for easy poses. And you can't take your eyes from it.”
Peter Geye - Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] novel of stark and brutal truths…[Brewster] culminates in a scene of such visceral power and narrative force that this reader was left breathless. But perhaps Slouka's greatest accomplishment is his ability to blend his own authorial voice with the dialogue of his characters. It's as if the conversations that pass between Jon and Ray and Karen - about music, their plans for the future, their love and devotion to each other—are the lyrics to Slouka's melody. And what a beautiful and redemptive song it is.”
Starred Review Booklist
“What Slouka also draws, with unerring accuracy, is the primacy of friendship and loyalty among teens who feel they are powerless. Slouka gives them a voice here, one filled with equal parts humor and pain.”
The Rumpus
“Brewster is subtly wrought and wholly moving, capturing with beautiful desperation the sense of personal insecurity overshadowed by an era of unwieldy international concerns.”
The Columbus Dispatch
“One to devour… fans of Richard Russo novels or Chad Herbach’s The Art of Fielding should love this novel.”
Ron Charles - Washington Post
“A masterpiece of winter sorrow… Slouka’s real triumph here is capturing the amber of grief, the way love and time have crystallized these memories into something just as gorgeous as it is devastating.”
Colum McCann
“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.”
Brian Hall
“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.”
Bonnie Joe Campbell
“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.”
Booklist
“Slouka brings a Richard Russo–like compassion and his own powerfully stripped-down prose to this poignant coming-of-age story set in the small blue-collar town of Brewster, New York, in the year 1968…. What Slouka captures so well here is the burning desire of the four teens to leave their hardscrabble town behind and the restricted circumstances that seem to make tragedy an inevitable outcome. What Slouka also draws, with unerring accuracy, is the primacy of friendship and loyalty among teens who feel they are powerless. Slouka gives them a voice here, one filled with equal parts humor and pain.”
Library Journal
The setup is familiar: bright Jewish track star Jon is befriended by long-coat, wrong-side-of-the-tracks loner Ray as they both fall for smart, empathetic beauty Karen, but she loves only one of them (guess which?). What separates Slouka's coming-of-age story from most others are dead-on characters, the small-town setting in downstate New York, and the 1968–71 time frame. Although the characters must struggle to articulate their thoughts and feelings, they succeed despite themselves, and the sensory images (e.g., the smell of burning leaves, the chill of ice fishing) are truly evocative. There are puzzles, often but not always solved; for instance, Ray was believed to be into bare-knuckles-for-pay fighting, but the truth is something altogether different. The consequences for each character are both surprising and inevitable, and the numerous allusions (e.g., John Carlos, Buffalo Springfield, Marcuse, Wilfrid Owen, Let's Make a Deal, Curtis LeMay, Cool Hand Luke, Country Joe and the Fish) will resonate with many readers. In a back-of-book interview, Slouka (God's Fool) likens this novel to "an adult version of…The Outsiders." VERDICT 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.—Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Slouka's third novel, set mainly in 1968 in hardscrabble Brewster, N.Y., is a departure from his last, the dark and lyrical World War II book The Visible World (2007). Jon Mosher is 16, the son of Jewish émigrés who were remote and taciturn even before Jon's elder brother died suddenly in childhood. Guilt-stricken and alone, Jon befriends a similarly solitary boy named Ray Cappicciano. Ray, a brawler who often comes to school (or doesn't) in a battered and bloody state from what he says are semipro boxing matches out of town, lives with his father, a violently drunken ex-cop and ex-soldier with a grisly collection of war trophies, and Ray--the analogy to and symmetry with Jon's own situation as a sibling is made much of--bears the responsibility for his baby brother, whom he is able to farm out to relatives in New Jersey for a while. Jon takes up distance events in track as an outlet; both boys fall in love with a smart and beautiful girl named Karen, who opts for the rougher-edged, tougher yet more vulnerable Ray but who remains a close friend and confidante of Jon; Jon achieves success as a runner and meanwhile tries to ignore mounting clues about the nature of his friend's struggles. Against a persuasive backdrop (and soundtrack) of late-1960s America, we see the boys try--with, tragically, only partial success--to plot escape routes. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393240511
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
07/29/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
586,935
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Mark Slouka is the author of, most recently, the award-winning novel Brewster. His work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, and the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories. He lives in Brewster, New York.

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Brewster: A Novel 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished BREWSTER by Mark Slouka. First time in my life - ever - that I sat straight up while reading and gasped, "Oh my God!" I also cried - a first for a novel. It's so well written - I was getting up in the middle of the night to keep reading it. Truly loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brewster is a beautiful, heartbreaking coming-of-age novel about the friendship between two teenage boys, Jon and Ray, each enduring tragically difficult circumstances in their respective homes until they can escape. Whether they will, and whether Jon will realize the truth of Ray's situation, makes for a suspenseful narrative that unfolds at a deft pace in taut, graceful, and powerful prose. The reader knows he's hurtling to a painful finish, but he can't imagine what it will look like. Jon is a long-distance runner on the school track team and his running, his races, serve as an allegory for the other races the characters are running for their lives. The percolating and sometimes explosive anger and confusion of the late 1960s is perfectly evoked, as are the rhythms and cadence of the speech of teen boys, similarly angry and confused. Because it is primarily about male characters, and narrated by one as well, it is a book that would be appealing to male readers searching for good contemporary fiction. There isn't a single thing in this novel that rings false. Even though it *will* break the reader's heart, it's wonderful reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not a chat room go play side with your toys
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I believe this book is for sophisticated adults and i did not understand a thing going on which makes every one figure out i am only a fifteen year old teen. The book i have to admit has a very plot through so congratelations to the writter
bridgan More than 1 year ago
I was very interested in this book because of the reviews...it wasn't as good as it should have been. Somehow I wanted a better ending.....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with u
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You have to not read this
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am upset that barnes and noble puts this kind of book on our nook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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kmm More than 1 year ago
This is just too expensive for a 288 page novel!