Told from the perspective of an unnamed twelve-year-old boy, Daniel Magariel’s debut novel is a darkly humorous and heart-rending story of a boy who accompanies his older brother and father as they escape their old life in Kansas to start anew in New Mexico, following a divorce and custody battle.
Not long after settling in to a new life and school things start to take a darker, and more violent, turn. After getting in a fight, the boy is concerned that his father will be angry. His older brother jokes with him: “You’re first fight, son,” he impersonated our father. “You’re not a child anymore. Welcome to manhood. You carry your own sins now.”
Their father is not quite so philosophical though and proceeds to violently beat his young son with a belt. The narrator tells us “I was horrified and confused. I’d seen him whip my mother with a belt before…. Never before, though, had he handled either of us boys so violently. Until now his brutality had been reserved for her.”
“You’re first fight, son,” he impersonated our father. “You’re not a child anymore. Welcome to manhood. You carry your own sins now.”
In addition to the violence, the boys are also subject to their father’s increasing withdrawal and descent into drug addiction. Soon they decide to make an escape.
Magariel’s engaging and poignant novel explores loyalty, masculinity, domestic violence, addiction, and the relationship between brothers, and fathers and sons.