"It's the honest characters, with all their scrappy, irreverent individuality and compassion, that grab attention. Fast, clipped, immediate, raucous (there are a few instances of the f-word), the dialogue is poetic; so is what's left unsaid. The simple words, and the spaces between them, reveal secrets, breakdown, betrayal, and love." --Booklist
Cheripko's (Imitate the Tiger) eloquent and compassionate novella (whose title comes from a line in an e.e. cummings poem) portrays the ongoing struggle addicts must face to stay clean. Danny Murtaugh is taking some time off from his prestigious music school after a college romance fails. He spends most of the winter term taking photos in the woods near his home and, on his ramblings, he meets Benji, a friend of his father who died nine years ago ("So this is the infamous Benji... who comes out of the forest about once a month to stock up on a few groceries and lots of booze"). Danny also meets the marksman who "owns" the woods and who inadvertently encourages Danny's photographic pursuits, as well as a young waitress. Through Benji, Danny unwittingly becomes involved in some of the small town's less savory activities. Danny's honest first-person narrative and his conversations with other characters make clear what it takes for him to remain sober. The plot itself may be a bit flimsy, and the real mystery somewhat difficult to discern, but the lyrical details elegantly evoke Danny's inner consciousness as well as a slice of rural life in the Northeast ("Ice. Ice everywhere. A morning stopped solid by ice. Trees bent to the ground, defeated, bowed, humbled by a god of white war"). Cheripko may well instill in readers an empathy and admiration for recovering addicts, who fight their battle one day at a time. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
We meet Danny Murtaugh on an ice-covered day as he wanders through land owned by old Mr. Garrick. He is home from college, not for the holidays, but because he has dropped out in an attempt to come to terms with his father's death many years before. His father died in a drowning accident, which Danny witnessed and for which he still feels he is to blame. While home he avoids his mother's urgings to return to school; Danny is a pianist, on a music scholarship. He seeks out Mr. Garrick for permission to take photographs on the land where his father died. Through this request, he connects with a couple of his father's old friends, Benji Samuels, the town drunk, and Billy Taylor, the man his mother is seeing. He becomes entangled in a land dispute between the state and Mr. Garrick, which seems to have a direct impact on Samuels. He also learns more about the man his father was. While Danny's story is one of discovery and coming of age, it is Stephanie's story that adds a sense of renewal to the novel. Stephanie is a young unwed mother, the niece of a town local. She has also made some horrific mistakes in her life--drug addiction and theft--but she is working to make a new life for herself. Danny is drawn to her, even while she keeps him at a distance. With Stephanie, with her sense of self and her sense of faith, Danny is finally able to talk through his pain and guilt. The novel is written in short chapters, choppy like Danny's feelings and yet strung together to recreate a community of people whom Danny, and the reader, come to know well. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, Front Street, Boyd Mills, 176p., Ages 12 to 18.
Gr 9 Up
Danny Murtaugh, a music prodigy and recent college dropout, is trying to piece together the meaning of his life by returning to his home where, as a young boy, he witnessed the death of his father in a drowning accident. This piece of the puzzle is a common thread connecting several people in his hometown. While on his quest, Danny meets Stephanie, a waitress with a tainted past. Jan Cheripko's novel (Front Street, 2006) blends routine occurrences such as death, romance, and soul-searching into a wonderful, heart-wrenching story filled with tragedy and the search for meaning in one's life. The inclusion of strong language adds to the emotional impact of the story. The full-cast narration is excellent, varying inflection and rhythm. An interview with Cheripko is included at the end of the novel.-Cheryl Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City Schools, OH
Having dropped out of college, Danny's living at home with Mom to figure out his life. The title and cover promise a poetic reverie of nature, but the author makes Danny and his environs come to life through gritty dialogue and his pursuit of the truth about the pristinely preserved woods that federal, state and county authorities have been trying to grab for years. It was in those woods that Danny's father died as Danny watched. Another death occurs that underlines the mystery, the danger and dishonesty possible in a small town. The rural Pennsylvania setting keeps the connections between characters believable, and the plot thickens as Danny grows to understand more fully how facile judgments don't work. There's an intricacy of emotion at work that is cleverly revealed as events unfold. A gorgeous new waitress at the cafe has more history than expected, excursions to a Catholic church for Sunday morning and funeral services are intriguing and even alcohol fuels motivations in unexpected ways. No word is extraneous, yet the author manages to make the dialogue both realistic and revealing. Short, sweet and stunningly well written. (Fiction. YA)