Review: One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel

Title: One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 176 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

A riveting and emotionally harrowing debut about two young brothers and their physically and psychologically abusive father—One of the Boys is 176 perfect, stunning pages by a major new talent.

The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then violent.

Set in the sublimely stark landscape of suburban New Mexico and a cramped apartment shut tight to the world, One of the Boys conveys with stunning prose and chilling clarity a young boy’s struggle to hold onto the dangerous pieces of his shattered family. Harrowing and beautiful, Daniel Magariel’s masterful debut is a story of survival: two foxhole-weary brothers banding together to protect each other from the father they once trusted, but no longer recognize. With the emotional core of A Little Life and the compact power of We the Animals, One of the Boys is among the most moving and remarkable debut novels you’ll ever read.

Review:

One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel is a dark and disturbing portrayal of child abuse, addiction and dysfunction.

During his parents’  acrimonious divorce,  their twelve year old son will do anything to ensure his father gains custody of him.  After successfully winning “the war” as his father calls the divorce, the boy, his older brother and father leave their home in Kansas for a new beginning in Albuquerque, NM.  At first hopeful about their life without mom, whom they all believe provoked their father’s abusive treatment of her, the brothers quickly discover nothing has changed except their dad now takes out his anger on them. While their new life seems to be going well initially, it does not take long for the boys’ father’s behavior to become more erratic and the brothers then try to remain united as he tries to drive a wedge between them.

Their new beginning in Albuquerque feels a bit like an adventure initially but the cracks in the foundation are soon showing. The brothers find it difficult to make friends but the oldest son finds his niche on the basketball team, but his father soon makes trouble with the boy’s coach.  Supposedly working from home, their father retreats to his bedroom for days on end only to emerge suffering from severe paranoia from his drug use.  The boys are often left with the responsibility of paying the bills and eventually, their father forgets to leave money to buy groceries.  Over the course of two years, the brothers are soon holding down jobs in an effort to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads while their father becomes a full blown drug addict.

While at times, their “old” father emerges, more often than not, he lashes out at his sons and often pits them against one another.  The boys try to remain united as their situation worsens to the point the oldest son reconnects with their mother.  Just when escape is within their grasp, the rug is yanked out from under them and they are left with nowhere to turn.  Quickly reaching the point of desperation, the boys are biding their time and planning their escape when their situation turns even more hopeless.  Following a particularly violent beating, the youngest brother has a choice to make when salvation arrives but will he take the necessary steps to save himself and his brother?

One of the Boys is a raw and gritty debut novel from Daniel Magariel.  A heartbreaking story of parental abuse and addiction, this deeply affecting story is not for the faint of heart.  The epilogue is particularly poignant since the brothers’ hopeful beginning takes such a horrific turn. This short novel tackles very bleak subject matter and comes to a rather abrupt conclusion that feels vaguely hopeful.  A well-written, hard-hitting story I highly recommend.

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1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Daniel Magariel, Literary Fiction, One of the Boys, Rated B, Review, Scribner

One Response to Review: One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel

  1. Timitra

    Thanks for the review Kathy