Jack (Vintage Contemporaries Series)

( 7 )


In Jack, A. M. Homes gives us a teenager who wants nothing more than to be normal—even if being normal means having divorced parents and a rather strange best friend. But when Jack’s father takes him out in a rowboat on Lake Watchmayoyo and tells his son he’s gay, nothing will ever be normal again. Out of Jack’s struggle to redefine what “family” means, A. M. Homes crafts a novel of enormous humor, charm, and resonance, the most convincing, funny, and insightful novel about ...

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In Jack, A. M. Homes gives us a teenager who wants nothing more than to be normal—even if being normal means having divorced parents and a rather strange best friend. But when Jack’s father takes him out in a rowboat on Lake Watchmayoyo and tells his son he’s gay, nothing will ever be normal again. Out of Jack’s struggle to redefine what “family” means, A. M. Homes crafts a novel of enormous humor, charm, and resonance, the most convincing, funny, and insightful novel about adolescence since The Catcher in the Rye.

Fifteen-year-old Jack's confused feelings for his father, who left him and his mother four years earlier, are further complicated when he finds that his father is gay.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A moving novel, and a very refreshing one. Jack is such an engaging, attractive human being, it’s a pleasure to believe in him.” —David Foster Wallace

“The engaging, doggedly funny [Jack] is likable from the first paragraph, a good kid caught in circumstances too much for him. And in the particulars of those circumstances, A. M. Homes touches upon something unique. Ms. Homes handles the big subjects subtly, deftly and with an appealing lack of melodrama.”—The New York Times Book Review

“A. M. Homes has created a most endearing teenager, and an intensely real world around him .... A fine book.”—Hilma Wolitzer

Crescent Dragonwagon
Ms. Homes handles the big subjects and adolescent passions subtly. . . even the minor characters have dimension and draw our sympathy. . . Without pat answers, A. M. Homes has given us a good youngster who in the end convincingly grows larger than his circumstances - as all of us, good and otherwise, must do on that arduous journey to adulthood. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Jack is almost 16 as the story opens, struggling to keep life normal in the wake of his parents' divorce some years earlier. During a weekend outing, Jack's father admits to being a homosexual, throwing Jack's psyche and social life for a loop. Homes `` perfectly captures the feelings, actions and even the speech cadences of a typical adolescent American male,'' commended PW. Author tour. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679732211
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1990
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Edition description: 1st Vintage contemporaries ed
  • Pages: 220
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

A. M. Homes
A. M. Homes
Salon wrote of the characters in A. M. Homes’s 2002 story collection Things You Should Know, “There are few formalities, even less bulls--t, no making nice for the sake of appearances.” The same could be said for Homes’s work as a whole. She specializes in bringing dark impulses and twisted tendencies to the surface, never softening or downplaying the often disturbing behavior displayed by her characters.


The book Homes is perhaps best known for is her novel The End of Alice -- chiefly because it caused such a stir.

The narrator, a middle-aged sex offender in prison for murdering a little girl, develops a correspondence with a college girl who's obsessed with a 12-year-old boy. The result was a compendium of behavior -- real and imagined -- that was largely so violent, sickening or "show-offy dirty," as the New York Times put it, that its prose and events were excerpt-resistant and left mainly to the brave and curious. The book spurred a flurry of protests and attempted bans.

In 1999, Homes followed up The End of Alice with Music for Torching, a novel of kink and circumstance in the suburbs of New York in which an unhappy couple sets fire to their own house, then moves in with neighbors whose seemingly perfect marriage reveals its own subterranean faults. A high school hostage situation that is part of the book's coda had coincidental parallels to the Columbine tragedy that same year. The New York Times had a typical response: "The fact is, I was at times appalled by the book, annoyed by it, angered by it. Its ending struck me as cynical and manipulative. But even so, I found myself rapt from beginning to end, fascinated by Homes's single-minded talent for provocation."

For many readers, summaries like this are a signal to run, run, run in the other direction. But first, consider that Homes's books are not just big Pandora's boxes -- they can be a funny Pandora's boxes. In the story "Real Doll," for example, collected in 1990's The Safety of Objects, a boy's -- er, relationship -- with a Barbie doll bears some humorous gibes ("I [Barbie] if she wanted something to drink. ‘Diet Coke,' she said. And I wondered why I'd asked.").

Homes's earlier work is also almost sweet by comparison. Her well-received debut novel Jack chronicled the struggles of a 15-year-old to cope with his parents' divorce and the revelation that his dad is gay; In a Country of Mothers deals with a middle-aged counselor's deepening relationship with her 19-year-old female client. Both books contain poignant explorations of identity.

In her second story collection Things You Should Know, Homes continued to develop her singular, eclectic voice. A biracial marriage suffers a rift created by an addled, deteriorating mother-in-law in "Chinese Lessons"; Nancy Reagan's current life is devilishly imagined in "The Former First Lady and the Football Hero"; a woman endeavors to inseminate herself with the leftovers from beach trysts she espies in "Georgica." As with Homes's previous works, the collection is a testament to the author's talents for portraying the depths of human pain and depravity with humor and unabashed honesty.

Good To Know

Homes is an adjunct assistant professor of creative writing at Columbia University.

Perhaps tired of the scrutiny that arose from The End of Alice, Homes often comes across as a difficult interview subject, flatly refusing to indulge (or even validate) the natural curiosity about any personal connection to her work. She dressed down an interviewer in The Barcelona Review in 1997 thusly: "I have no experience with ‘recovery.' Again, you're applying your own notions about abuse, recovery, personal narrative, to the work. These are not areas I work from, they are not relevant. ...You seem to have a recurring question or concern about how I assimilate what goes on in my stories into everyday life. I am a fiction writer, I work from my imagination, in response to things going on in the culture."

The Safety of Objects was adapted for film by director Rose Troche in 2001, with stars including Glenn Close and Dermot Mulroney.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 18, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2005

    Jack was no jack

    Jack was an interesting story from the start. It truly showed that it takes time to heal, homophobias and all. It came quite a shocker at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2002

    Reminiscent of Catcher In The Rye

    Very reminiscent of Catcher in the Rye. I recommend this book to anyone who seems to have troubles dealing with family problems, or anyone just looking for a can't-put-it-down, makes-you-think-about-your-own-life, laughable easy read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2002

    A real life story, that kept me turning the pages!

    I love this story so much i just makes me want to read it and read again. This is real life stuff that could be happening to somebody. The part of the book that i liked the best is when jack was out on the basketball court and he was just forgeting about all his problems.I think this book is a good book and not alone sould girls read it to try to understand guys, but i think everybody should because its a good book. While I was reading this i could of swore that A.M Homes was fallowing some guy and writing what was going on in his life, its that real...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2001

    Jack, a book relating to reality

    The novel, Jack, written by A.M. Homes was very humorous, intelligent, and an interesting view of a teenagers life. I found the book easy to read, yet it should be read by mature audiences. Jack the main characteris faced with waht he thinks is the absolute worst thing a teenager could face. his father has left the family and eventually reveals an important aspect of his life to Jack. This affects not just Jack and his father, but Jacks life, friends and family. I highly reccomend this book to anybody who can not put a book down because the want to know what happens next. The story keeps you going and waiting for more. Some points in the book make you feel as if you are side by side with Jack trying to help him understand or just comfort him. One time when he is with his father at his apartment building, Jack feels uncomfortable yet does not want to let his dad know. After a short while his father and him engage in conversation, concerning what his dad has told him. Jack always feels uncomfortable and like his life is sometimes unreal. Once again, like many other times in the book, Jacks and his fathers conversation is kept very short. Through out the book, although it is serious, humor will sometimes pop up and make you laugh out loud. The scenes are so realistic that you could see them happening to yourself or others that it amuses you. Jack and his friends are out bowling with their fathers, and one particular character, Max, is the comedian of the group, and makes jokes and, snyde remarks about everything. When Jack seems down, somebody is always there to give him a little push. His mother particularly tries constantly to push and help him, but Jack still can not talk about his frustrations. Jack is a wonderfulbook that i feel many should read, although some context is vulgar it shows what growing up is all about, and almost makes it a reality. This novel may help one to understand one's life. It is very truthful, powerful, and a must have for your personal library.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2001

    Astounded At Local Headlines Re: Jack Being Banned in Sedro-Woolley, WA area.

    Have been amazed while reading local newspaper wherein Jack has been banned from Cascade Middle School Lbrary. Only one person complained yet the book was removed. Do not understand how this could occur in the USA? Had one person from same area complain about Jack and Jill a few years ago and it received top headlines. This is the most ridiculous event we have observed in this primitive locale. How can one person's opinion deprive everyone else from the opportunity to read this outstanding book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2000

    Great Story

    I really loved this book. Jack is so incredibly honest about everything, it brings such a great view to the story. He is open with his feelings, but they are hidden under large amounts of sarcasm. It's a story of a teenager going through the usual angst, but then another problem is dumped on him, and it's his way of dealing with it. I especially enojyed his best friend Max and Max's little brother. Email me if you have any questions or anything else about this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2000

    Very Good

    Jack is a very realistic book portraying an adolesent teenage boy. Homes actually portrays him as a human being, unlike some authors who make their characters super-human making it hard to follow the story.

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