One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel

Review published on December 13, 2017.

Whether it is in a news report or in fiction, child custody following divorce is a very upsetting and divisive subject. In real life, the stiff upper-lip and the bitten tongue is the most usual approach, but in novels we expect the more extreme versions, and this account does not disappoint.

After ‘winning the war’ and gaining custody of his teenage sons, a father sets off from Kansas to New Mexico so they can start a new life together.

But…he is a disastrous father, one of the most unpleasant characters I have encountered in a novel. Before long he is manipulating the boys and setting them against one another in the way he alienated them from their mother. He is a drug addict and the boys are drawn into the world of using and dealing while they try to please and protect him, while suffering themselves. When he loses the big account he is working on, the downward spiral begins.

The book has only 168 pages but the writing is terse and to the point and the narrative is involving for the reader. It is told by the younger son. No names are used, which makes the book curiously impersonal, but there is no mistaking the passion of the writing.

Children do feel great loyalty to their parents, even when the parenting skills are dubious. There is a bond between the boys and their father so that they instinctively obey his orders, while not understanding the issues.

A disturbing read.

Dorothy Anderson 3/3

One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel
Granta Books 9781783783465 hbk Apr 2017

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