Friday, September 20, 2013

Rocks in the belly

This first novel by Jon Bauer was published in 2010 is a book about relationships in a dysfunctional family. The story is told both from the viewpoint of the protagonist as a young boy around eight years of age and as a twenty-eight year old man returning home after a period of living in Canada to look after his dying mother. We never learn the real name of the protagonist but we know that his mother feels the need to offer a foster home to young boys and that his father supports her. This is a story of jealousy and mistrust. We learn of the feelings of the young boy having strangers constantly living in his home and the fear that his mother, in particular, favours these boys with problems above his needs. The father to some extent understands the concerns of the son but over compensates by allowing him to do things that perhaps he shouldn't. The main focus of the story is when thirteen year old Robert comes to stay and the consequent impact of this event on the life of the family. When the son returns home he is a troubled man with anger management problems finding difficulty to relate to other people. It is only when it is too late that he begins to understand his mother. A character driven book, I found myself becoming annoyed with the characters, especially the protagonist, and their failure to perceive how others may view their actions. It is also not clear where the story is set - the author is English and now lives in Australia - however this does not affect the events in the book. All in all this is a study of the destruction of a family when lines of communication and understanding of the needs of other family members appear not to exist with the consequent unfortunate results. A well written but, I thought, a rather bleak book.

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