**spoiler alert** I can't tell you how much I loved this book. I developed deep affection for this family, with all of their quirks and flaws. Krueger...more**spoiler alert** I can't tell you how much I loved this book. I developed deep affection for this family, with all of their quirks and flaws. Krueger has such an aptitude for making his characters seem like ACTUAL PEOPLE that we have all met at one time or another, so it doesn't seem so much like reading as remembering.
His descriptive powers add so much to the story - I think the use of description is what sets writers apart from the crowd. If descriptive devices are used too often, too little, or in the wrong way, the story suffers. It takes talent (and probably a lot of self-editing) to get it EXACTLY RIGHT. Krueger does it time and time again. One of the descriptive passages in the novel literally made me put the book down in awe. When Frankie was describing his Grandfather (a very rich man) and described his eyes as blue ... "so blue, that it looked like he had bought pieces of the sky to make them" ... (may not be exactly word for word, but you get the idea) ... not only is he describing Grandfather's eyes, but describes this very wealthy man as having "bought pieces of he sky" ... Could this be a subtle attempt to convey an unflattering aspect of his character as well ?
I enjoyed the use of the railroad trestle as an icon for sentinel events in Frankie's life (finding the dead man, letting Walter Redstone get away, finding Ariel's body). I appreciated that each character had a "flaw", either physical (hairlip/stutter/blindness/deafness), or emotional (war wounds/spiritual confliction).
I sympathized with Ruth because she saw Nathan's unwavering faith and fervent prayer as a personal affront to her - how could he find comfort in the very being that she blamed for the death of her child? Nathan, however, simply blamed himself. ("Why Ariel? Why not me? The sins are mine, not hers.") Nathan and Gus were in the war together, and Krueger never gives us he detailed about what transpired between the two of them that created such a strong bond. Nathan and Gus coped with the emotional scars of the war in the way most comfortable to them - Nathan, with his faith; and Gus, with drinking and hell-raising. But I believe that Gus had a spiritual level of understanding deeper than perhaps even Nathan did. Gus said, "I can't believe that God would ever harm that beautiful child in order to call you into account."
This novel will be forever one of my favorites - a modern masterpiece to impress fastidious readers and a standard of exceptional writing for our generation.(less)
**spoiler alert** Eh. I know this was meant to be a coming-of-age novel of teenage angst, but I had a really hard time feeling sorry for this kid beca...more**spoiler alert** Eh. I know this was meant to be a coming-of-age novel of teenage angst, but I had a really hard time feeling sorry for this kid because he was so incredibly WHINY. And even though his parents deserted him and his classmates thought he was a weirdo, he still had it so much better than many kids these days (read Heft by Liz Moore). This kid had a huge house to himself with unlimited funds for food, entertainment, etc. and several neighbors and friends who cared about him. I'm really not trying to be unsympathetic here, but many many kids endure far worse than Leonard Peacock and live to tell about it in their own way and in their own time. They don't go nuts, cut their hair, give away prized possessions and plan a murder-suicide to "get even". This book would have had a greater impact on me if I could've liked Leonard.(less)