One of the Boys

With his fiction debut, Daniel Magariel shows he knows how to pack a knockout punch in a short jab. Tight and disturbing, One of the Boys explores the sinister damage an acrimonious divorce inflicts on two teenage boys caught between their unreliable mother and violent, cocaine-addicted father. Vulnerable and looking for some stability, the brothers want to believe that their father loves them and really will provide the safe new life he promised after they leave their mother in Kansas.

The suburban Albuquerque apartment he finds them, however, soon becomes a place that swings between a frat house and a crack house. For weeks at a time their dad disappears into his bedroom with his drugs and various women while the boys grow up fast, learning to cook, drive, buy groceries, manage school and sports, work part time at the Stop-N-Go, and somehow pay the bills. The drugs soon make their dad increasingly abusive and paranoid--until the binges end, and remorse and promises return. The brothers know the cycle: "Our dad was an act with a single end. His trajectory: down, down, down." In telling this bleak story from the younger brother's perspective, Magariel puts an exceptional spin on what is sadly a predicament common to many adolescent children of bitter divorce. The narrator's yearning for stability, his resilience and his confusion drive the narrative. Magariel doesn't pull his punches. This incisive debut is as heartbreaking as it is unflinching. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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