Townhouse Books

Friday, September 09, 2005

An Ocean in Iowa: Peter Hedges

Scotty Ocean is seven years old when his mother leaves the family. He thought that seven was going to be his year, and while it is definitely memorable, it is not what he pictured. Peter Hedges is a great writer, and does a good job (I think) of telling a story from the POV of a seven year old. For example, Scotty's father is a judge, a remote authority figure in the family. When Scotty draws a picture of him he makes him twice the size of his mother. His mother makes him erase it and redraw it to scale. Then she tells Scotty, "You see? You've cut him down to size."

The descriptions of life in a second grade classroom and in a neighborhood group of kids are excellent. The story takes place in 1969, and the Vietnam war influences the events somewhat.

I infer from the book jacket that the author (best known for What's Eating Gilbert Grape, a book that I liked infinitely more than this one) was probably seven years old around 1969. He also has two sons. This book feels to me like an exercise in fretfulness -- exorcising traumas of your childhood, imagining the inner life of your own children, wondering whether your relationship with your children will be better than your relationship with your parents. I recommend it, but only if you're in a certain "Wonder Years / Greek Tragedy" mood.

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2 Comments:

  • I appreciate it when authors can pull off points of view of children that are still interesting and challenging. (Extremely Loud, Curious Incident are other examples). i realize I never read Gilbert Grape, so perhaps I'll start with that one and wait for my Wonder Years/tragegy mood to strike.

    By Blogger evt1618, at 9:00 PM  

  • Everyone in America should read Gilbert Grape.
    (That's my shot at an Oprah-style proclamation -- were you convinced?)

    By Blogger Anna, at 6:47 AM  

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