Brewster was my latest book from my Indiespensables subscription and I was hopeful, yet tentative, after struggling through the previous installment. I was more than pleased – I was amazed, captivated, enthralled, humbled.
Brewster is an amazing story, beautifully written, about two boys growing up in small town Brewster, NY in 1968. When Jon is four, his older brother dies due to a freak accident, and his parents, survivors of the Holocaust, disconnect, moving into a permanent state of mourning, often forgetting or resenting their remaining son. Ray has grown up without his mother, living with his cruel drunken father, an ex-cop and WWII veteran.
Now these two boys are teenagers – the studious Jon finding solace on the track team as he is torn between loyalty to his family and running away for real while Ray alternates between being the “bad boy” at school and protecting his baby brother from their father – and they form an unlikely, but deep and beautiful friendship. In their friendship they find everything that they don’t have at home – love, loyalty, kindness, understanding, solace. There are characters that are horrible – Jon’s nearly catatonic mother who is emotionally cruel to her son and Ray’s sadistically cruel father. There are characters that are likable – Ray’s girlfriend, the kindly auto-mechanic, Ray’s little brother, Jon’s friends on the track team, the friend who is a religious zealot. But in the end it is a story, hurtling towards a painfully devastating conclusion, of two friends trapped in inescapable circumstances and their love for one another.
Author: Mark Slouka
Publication: W. W. Norton & Company, August 2013