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Posted May 31, 2010
After reading the first few pages of Joe Speedboat, I began over so I could read it out loud to my nine year-old son. In the first few chapters, the narrator takes on a Tom Sawyer quality trapped inside a disabled body, while Joe personifies a Dutch Huckleberry Finn. As the two boys grow older, however, the narrative turns dark, foreboding, and sleazy. I quickly abandoned reading it to a nine year-old. As the characters continue, brothers and parents and classmates are all complex, but dysfunctional figures, doing the best they can to love each other in a not-so-idyllic world. Only Joe provides light and hope. Eventually, even his light dims--until the last few pages, which all too quickly, tie up the novel with a last, crazy, dysfunctional but hopeful ending.
Wieringa's writing and Garrett's translation is lyrical and poetic, and that is what makes this novel a deserving, but disquieting read.