Review published on February 13, 2018.
One of the Boys, the first novel by Daniel Magariel, begins with a father and his two sons leaving Kansas and driving to New Mexico. The father has just gained custody of the boys (we never learn their names) from their mother. Told entirely from the point of view of the younger 12-year-old son, the book gradually reveals the father’s true character, as he spirals into drug abuse and violence towards his children. While appearing to be on the their side and ‘one of the boys’ as in the book’s title, he is in reality determined to control them by any means including violence and clever manipulation.
This is a very moving and at times harrowing read, but it is always compelling as the boys gradually realise what is really happening to them. They are defenceless against their father’s ‘divide and rule ‘ tactics where he turns the boys against their mother and each other. The book charts their movement from frightened children to a sort of maturity. It’s beautifully written in a simple style with an epilogue that made me think again about the whole book. The fact that the main characters are never named does lessen the emotional impact a little but perhaps serves to make the story more universal. It remains, however, a devastating critique of what can go wrong in the nuclear family when it’s isolated from the rest of society. Moreover, it’s a book with more impact and food for thought in its 165 pages than many much longer novels.
Sue Glynn 4/4
One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel
Granta Books 9781783783472 pbk Mar 2018
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