Rebecca Brothers's Reviews > Eli the Good

Eli the Good by Silas House
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Jul 05, 11

Read in July, 2011

The summer that I was ten--
Can it be there was only one
summer that I was ten? It must
have been a long long one then--

---May Swenson "The Centaur" (as qtd. in House's Eli The Good)

I loved this quotation from the get-go and have since re-read Swenson's poems with a new eye because of this book. Silas House gained famed through his book Clay's Quilt, a book I need to by God go back and read. But this book captured me on a deep level I'm still picking my way through.

Our (anti) hero Eli is 10 as the book opens, and he has all the struggles many kids growing up in 1970's America you'd expect. It's 1976 and the July 4th Bicentennial celebrations are upon him. His southern town is gearing up for a $10,000 fireworks display; his 16 year old sister is plaguing her mother by fitting and stamping her feet for her "right" to wear a pair of ultra-tight pants that look as if they were made from a flag (striped up the thighs, star-spangled butt); his hippie aunt has come home to roost and his Vietnam veteran father is waking them all with the screams of his night terrors.

Eli is still very young; 10 was younger back then, wasn't it? But he spies on everyone in the house with a level of stealth a CIA operative could study; he learns more secrets about the adult world than he's ready for, and he knows it. I finished the book last night with the sounds of fireworks exploding all over town and I'm still reeling from it all; we haven't healed from that awful and wonderful part of our country's history. Maybe picking at scabs is a good way to make us really remember the hurt and try to learn from it.
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