Published: March 26, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Postal Book Club
New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were at the ready at Halderson’s Drug Store soda counter, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a summer in which death assumed many forms.
When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.
This book is many things: a mystery, a family drama, a snapshot of small town life. I've actually struggled with how to approach it with this review because, in my mind, it fits too many and too few boxes. But one thing that this book was, without question, was magnificent.
It succeeds on so many levels. Having the narrator of an adult book be a young boy can be problematic, but it worked here. I also liked that Frank was not a model child--he disobeyed his parents and frequently made trouble for himself. Krueger was able to show the reader who Frank was as a child and who he would become as a man.
The dynamics in Frank's family are complicated, but Krueger lays them out well. Both of his parents have a history, which the reader never fully discovers (because Frank himself never discovers it), but it gives the characters some meaty layers.
Krueger also makes some wise choices when it comes to the town of New Bremen. He doesn't draw in to many characters, but he fully utilizes the characters he does bring in. The largest of these characters is Gus, a man living close to transiency but beholden to Frank's father. Even though he is an adult, he is both a partner and guardian to Frank.
The language of this book is absolutely breathtaking. This particular sentence sold me (found on page 5 of my copy): "Night was the dark of the soul and being up in an hour when the rest of the world was dead with sleep gave me a sinful thrill." Once I read that, I knew that Krueger was a writer of great note.
This book has a mystery-type plot and mystery fans won't be disappointed. However, it didn't read like a mystery to me. I figured out the "whodunnit" fairly early, but it really didn't impact my experience with this book. To me, this was a family drama combined with a coming of age novel that worked on every level.
I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.