There is nothing conventional about Lynch's third and best novel. This tight, taut novel bounces back between slow-witted Davey's thoughts and his family's sad story. Oddly refreshing.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Here is a book that's meticulously crafted, its prose evocative and lyrical-and almost excruciating to read. The eponymous protagonist and sometime narrator, an outsize boy considered simple, is the lone incorruptible character, an innocent adrift in a 20th-century Rake's Progress. Everyone else-from his drunken floozy of a mother and his drunken floozy of a sister (already a negligent mother at 17) to his shadowy father, Sneaky Pete-is, despite flashes of decency, irredeemably venal, selfish and manipulative. Lynch (Shadow Boxer) describes in unflinching detail a squalid, urban scene of mean-spirited ignorance, poverty, violence and offhand sex. Davey's heartrending closing vow, to ``find somebody who's gonna love me and we're gonna have some babies and I'm gonna love 'em like hell to pieces like nobody ever loved babies before,'' magnifies the bleakness of the surrounding darkness. Best suited to mature readers. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
The ALAN Review - Jeff Kaplan
Davey's mother really does love him (and so does his estranged father), but his mother is just "no good at it anymore." Life is just tough to handle, so Davey's mother does the next best thing - she hands two-year-old Davey over to his seven-year-old sister Joanne and takes off whenever she can. Where does Davey's mother go? Out. To work. To a bar. To find herself. All the time leaving Davey with his bewildered and fast-to-grow-up sister, Joanne. And guess what? When Joanne turns 17, she becomes a mother herself, passing her baby on to Davey to watch as she (guess what?) runs off whenever she can. This is a tough story. Told in both Davey's and the narrator's voice, we learn of the unforgiving life of a child who is tossed around like loose baggage. A gritty, mature read for teenagers, who will see reality in a harsh and cruel light.
Children's Literature - Christopher Moning
Davey is considered a slow learner. He doesn't speak aloud that much-he never has. But inside his head, thoughts and words go on and on, bumping into each other at a frenzied pace. The only time that things feel normal is when Davey is riding his bicycle. He pedals around town so much that the locals know him as Gypsy Davey. Through a narrator's voice as well as Davey's own rambling words, we learn of Davey's troubled home life, which unfolds a cyclic tale of physical and mental abuse that offers little hope of being broken. Davey's father rambles in and out of town with the wind. His mother rushes out at all hours accompanied by different men. And now his seventeen-year-old sister has a baby of her own. Davey dreams of taking his nephew away where they can be friends in peace. Profanity and frank descriptions of sexuality may make parents and educators think twice before recommending this novel.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Spanning the first 12 years of Davey's life, this book skillfully portrays the subject of childhood neglect and deprivation. Relegated to the care of his older sister, Davey spends hours in front of the television or riding aimlessly through the city on the mountain bike given to him by his deadbeat dad. Occasionally he accompanies his sister to the porch hangout of her dope-smoking friends or is dumped at a bar by his mom, where he is left in the charge of the bartender. Davey lives on macaroni and cheese and he rarely talks. His only friend (if you can call him that) is a local drug dealer who nicknames him Gypsy Davey. One day the friend is gone from the street with only the chalk outline of his dead body left. To complete this depressing cycle, Davey, before he is a teenager, becomes the caretaker of his sister's new baby. The characters are well drawn and elicit readers' concern. The dialogue crackles with realism including sporadic profanities. But the masterful prose is often overwhelmed by the brutal reality and the gloomy hopelessness of Davey's situation. Unlike his acclaimed novel, Shadow Boxer (HarperCollins, 1993), Lynch here gives us little to cheer about. Davey's father does return, but just for the warm months. And the rainbow in this story is found in an oily puddle of rainwater along the street gutter. In terms of literary quality, this work is outstanding. The book would inspire serious discussions in English classes, and, particularly with the guidance of a good teacher, will give worthwhile insights into parenting and family issues.-Tim Rausch, Crescent View Middle School, Sandy, UT
Lynch's "Shadow Boxer" (1993) and "Iceman" can easily be labeled as coming-of-age novels. Such categorizing isn't quite as accurate for his latest, which has the distinct feel of adult fiction. Although filtered, in part, through the eyes of a young, "retarded" boy, Davey (2 years old at the outset and 12 at the close), the book is much more than a growing-up story. In fact, it's the wrangling within Davey's dysfunctional family, particularly between his needy, irresponsible mother, Lois, and his angry sister, Joanne, that holds readers fast. Davey, alternately loved and emotionally abused, is simply caught between the woman and the girl, a catalyst and an observer of their vitriolic relationship. That his mother and sister actually love him in their odd, selfish ways helps Davey develop an innate sense of the way things ought to be for his baby nephew, Dennis. His devotion to the child, whom he loves "like nobody ever loved babies before," is his way of speaking out against his own dreadful home life. Many questions go unanswered in the story, the plot is episodic, awkwardly so at times, and Davey's occasional stream-of-consciousness interjections seem forced. Yet the characters are finely drawn, and Lynch creates some fascinating parallels between Lois and Joanne who at the outset, seem so different. The depiction of Davey's surroundings is harsh and hauntingly realistic (casual sex, alcohol abuse, and street language are givens); loneliness and frustration seem, at first glance, the only things people can count on. It's Davey's surprising, artless ability to rise above it all and keep on going that proves first impressions wrong.
Children's Literature - Keri Collins Lewis
Davey’s mother, Lois, abandoned him to television and his seven-year-old sister as babysitters when he was just two years old. Her addiction: masculine attention, especially if it could help make ends meet until she got some child support. Sneaky Pete, Davey and Joanne’s absent father, shows up bearing gifts and taking his children on memorable adventures to the fair, only to vanish again as quickly as he snuck into the house. The novel opens with Davey taking care of his sister’s baby, born when Joanne is just seventeen. Within the first chapter, Lynch paints a clear picture of the cycle of abuse and neglect that form the foundation of the character’s lives and personalities. After setting the stage for the present conflict, the story goes back in time to take readers through the family’s descent into misery. Through it all, Davey’s heart remains tender and innocent, in spite of the evil and bleakness around him. The author’s attention to detail, ear for dialogue, fast-paced plot and colorful characters keep the story moving yet realistic. The bulk of the story is told in third-person, broken occasionally by Davey’s first person point of view. The story’s timeline is not chronological. These techniques reinforce the idea that Davey is not stupid. He may struggle with attention deficit disorder and other people’s perception that he is slow-witted and amiable, and therefore easy to ignore and unable to learn. This edition of Lynch’s third novel is a heart-breaking, candid look at one family’s experiences with poverty, divorce, addiction, unhealthy relationships, learning disabilities, and abuse. From Joanne’s matter-of-fact views about trading sexual favors for masculine protection to Davey’s ingenuous delivery of drugs for the sake of having somewhere different to ride his bike, readers will ache for these unfortunate characters’ loss of innocence and their victimization by the adults around them. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis; Ages 12 up.
Read an Excerpt
My sister Joanne has a baby and sometimes after school I go over there and I help her with it and she lets me have a glass of wine and then I start to think of things.
Things like that I’m really good with babies even though I’m only twelve and I can think of no reason why I should be after all good with babies since I don’t have any of my own but I sure would like to. Better than my sister is with her own baby that’s for sure though I don’t actually mean to be mean because she’s nice to me some of the time and it’s hard for her and I fully understand that. She’s only seventeen herself but her old man she calls him is thirty which is why there’s always a glass of wine around although from what I can see the old man himself ain’t. Around that is.
Sometimes my sister goes out right away when I come over and comes back hours later when me and the baby Dennis are asleep. She says that Dennis is crazy because he’s loud and he’s active and he doesn’t listen but then he stops still and stares for almost ever and he makes a lot of sounds that are nothing at all like words and he moves funny sometimes more like a praying mantis than like a big baby boy and that all this is why little Dennis and me get along so good is what she says because we’re both screwed she says. And that’s why she has to leave sometimes.
But I don’t see the problem so much to be honest and I tell my sister so. She says I can’t see it because I’m a retard myself is what she says when she’s not feeling so nice or just that Davey you don’t understand things very well is what she says when she’s better.
But I can do things. I can change Dennis’s diaper when he needs it, and I know when he needs it. I even like it doing the changing doing the feeding like it when my sister leaves us alone because I like being the one in charge for a change. I am really responsible and I don’t think my sister changes Dennis often enough because of what I see sometimes on his little bum. Like boils. I can’t tell my sister something like that because I told her once told her after she came home from a long long time when she was out of the house. And she said how dare you to me and she hit me slapped me real hard. Then she stared at me and thought about it and just said how dare you again and hit me real hard on the same part of my face again even though I’m bigger than she is by a lot. But I couldn’t do nothing about it of course because I couldn’t. Except cry. I could cry and I did just with the water part and no sound coming out of me. And I turned so little Dennis couldn’t see because he looks up to me admires me and he’s real curious and kept stretching his neck to try to see me. So now I just wipe the cream on him all the time and I blow lightly on the red parts of his bottom to cool him because it looks hot.
My sister says so what to all this because she did it all for me when I was little like our brother Gary who doesn’t live around here anymore did for her because she says Mom had two kids too many than she could handle. And so I owe somebody.