This book was a hard read, but a good one. Magariel tells the story of two boys, brothers who are faced with living in dire situations. The story is told from the point of view of the younger brother. None of the characters are named. The novel follows the two boys and their father after the father wins custody of them from their mother. Faced with living alone with their father, who has pressured both of them to support him so they can be “one of the boys”. Their father is not an altogether stable man, and he is physically and verbally abusive (so, trigger warnings for these and drug use).
While the information I provided about their father is freely available in the synopsis, the cracks in their family show slowly. From the beginning, you do have a pervasive sense of something being not quite right. When the cracks start to show and widen and deepen, you know that you were right about the family situation, but don’t feel any sort of triumph at predicting it. This novel shows what it is like when abuse pervades every aspect of your being as a child. The physical and verbal abuse was tough to read, but I was even less prepared for the parts where the boys joined their father in the way he treated their mother. It hit home how much their father’s behavior had shaped their lives and personalities thus far.
The story had its ups and downs. There were times that broke my heart. There were times that gave me hope. Through it all, I could NOT put this book down. It’s a quick read at about 176 pages, but the story will stay with you. It carries weight and gave me a lot to think about, particularly in regard to other adults in the boys’ lives who don’t really feature in the novel. Though they aren’t well-defined characters like everyone else, I couldn’t stop thinking about how there were warning signs that these people should’ve seen. Help that could’ve been given. It also led me to think about abuse in the larger context of our world and how sadly it has become a pervasive part of our society.
A thought-provoking short novel, One of the Boys is an extremely well-written take on family and situations of abuse children sometimes find themselves in. The prose is good, and the book is hard to put down. Just be forewarned that it’s not an easy read, and if abuse of any kind or drug abuse is a trigger for you, just know that those things are in here. If you’re looking for a literary fiction read and don’t mind the difficult subject matter, I highly recommend this book.
Note: I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Ratings: 4 out of 5 stars
What short novels do you recommend? Let me know in the comments!