By deftly welding magic realism with social satire, Bakopoulos captures the dark side of the working-class dream. Maple Rock is stuck in a nightmare, and the lure of walking away still draws its young men. Mikey, like his father and like his friends, must decide to resist or to heed the call of ''No more, I'm heading for the moon.'' The New York Times
"When I was sixteen, my father went to the moon." Thus begins this debut novel about the mysterious disappearance of the men from a working-class suburb of Detroit. They go gradually, one by one, leaving for parts unknown-though more than one mentions the rocky orb up above. Michael Smolij's father is one of the last to vanish; once he's gone, Michael's musician mother plays "Norwegian Wood" on her violin, then takes two jobs to make ends meet. Michael, like all the boys in the neighborhood, has to grow up fast, working at the mall while taking community college courses. When Michael's mother remarries and moves away, leaving him the family house, Michael lands a job as a writer at a local radio station and starts dating a single mother with a five-year-old son, as if in an attempt to singlehandedly forge a new family for himself. The process of settling down, however, awakens a strange restlessness in him. Magic serves more as an emotional undercurrent than a mystery in this odd novel, part fable and part gritty realist chronicle. As Bakopoulos writes in an author's note, the book is a kind of elegy for his father's generation of downtrodden working-class men, but their disappointments are tempered by the modest hopes and ambitions of their sons in this gentle and moving tale. Agent, Amy Williams. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
In this coming-of-age story, set in the 1990s in an ethnic suburb of Detroit, the fathers have all gone away. Some were running from criminal acts, others despaired after losing a job, still others vanished mysteriously for no apparent reason, but all left wives and families behind. One man also left a note saying "I'm going to the moon"-hence the book's title. Teenaged narrator Michael Smolij and his friends all seem to be spiraling downward, following in their fathers' footsteps as they hang out, drinking, fighting, and going nowhere. But gradually those good or smart or lucky enough begin to turn themselves around. In particular, Michael's ex-girlfriend goes to school in Ann Arbor, and this tenuous connection to another world exerts a positive force on many back home. The novel follows Michael and his friends over the course of a decade, as they face young adulthood, start families, and are forced to move beyond the minimum-wage world of local mall jobs. Both realistic and fantastic, heartfelt and objective, this first novel is recommended for all libraries.-Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Where have all the fathers gone? That's the question in this marvelous first novel. It's 1991 in Maple Rock, a white ethnic Catholic suburb of Detroit. Narrator Michael Smolij is 16 when his uncle disappears, and then his father, an unemployed draftsman. A shoe-store owner leaves a note: "I'm going to the moon." A few dozen more family men leave, never to return. Michael's cousin Nick thinks they may be hiding out in an old hunting cabin, but the cabin's empty, and it becomes an article of faith among the no-nonsense teenagers that their fathers have gone to the moon, a change of address as real as beer or pizza. Overnight, the boys become men, taking after-school jobs, throwing back vodka shots, having sex like there's no tomorrow. In actuality, they are consumed by grief and rage. Michael's kid brother, Kolya, acts up in school and is put on Ritalin; "Miserable Mikey" struggles with depression. The story sees these ultimate deadbeat dads through a scrim of magic and superstition, their disappearance signaling that life is a series of trapdoors, that there's no permanence, neither in jobs nor in dads. Michael slowly makes a life for himself, getting a job at the new mall along with his buddies and falling in love with a sexy coworker who's a single parent, victim of another deadbeat dad. Yet for every gain, there's a loss: his mother remarries, happily, but leaves their decaying neighborhood; Nick starts his own family but loses his daredevil fire; Kolya develops into a promising athlete but enlists after 9/11. In an eerie reprise of the moon exodus 12 years before, the sons, now fathers themselves, gather spontaneously at their old rendezvous, unsure of their own loyalties. Bakopoulosdoesn't make a single wrong move, seamlessly integrating the magic-realism elements into the rest. A dazzling debut that's both earthy and anguished as hope battles despair, with heartbreak always just below the surface. Agent: Amy Williams/Collins McCormick Literary Agency
PRAISE FOR PLEASE DON'T COME BACK FROM THE MOON
"A beautifully smart, comic, and moving narrative about the fathers who disappear and the sons who take their place, Please Don't Come Back from the Moon is somehow both realistic and visionary . . . This is a wonderful book." -Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love
"Families, heartbreak, political and social comedy-there is little that Dean Bakopoulos doesn't grasp in an articulate, wittily perceptive, and soulful way, before he hands it back to the reader as literary art. Please Don't Come Back from the Moon is an original and brilliant first work of fiction."Lorrie Moore