Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Namesake by Steven Parlato

The Namesake
Author Steven Parlato
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All his teachers are sure certain that Evan Galloway can be the graduate who brings glory to small, ordinary St. Sebastian's School. As for Evan, however, he can't be bothered anymore. Since the shock of his young father's suicide last spring, Evan no longer cares about the future. In fact, he believes that he spent the first fifteen years of his life living a lie. Despite his mother's encouragement and the steadfast companionship of his best friend, Alexis, Evan is mired in rage and bitterness. Good memories seem ludicrous when the present holds no hope. Then Evan's grandmother hands him the key--literally, a key--to a locked trunk that his father hid when he was the same age as Evan is now. Digging into the trunk and the small-town secrets it uncovers, Evan can begin to face who his father really was, and why even the love of his son could not save him.
Review: This coming-of-age tale pulls no punches when it comes to spearing heavy topics. Suicide, religion, sexual abuse, loss, bullying and grief are just some of the issues faced in The Namesake. Certainly, Parlato isn't the first author to tackle sensitive coming-of-age topics, but what makes this novel so unique is the voice of the main character, Evan. From the very first paragraph there is an authentic, genuine and remarkably reliable voice established. It takes hold of the story and owns it to the last word. As I read, a consistent narrator camped out in my brain. Parlato superbly conveys the various events and emotional stages of not only what Evan is going through, but each character and the role they play. Specifically, Lex's explanation in her dear john letter to Evan. Her words resonate and are spot on in explaining the fall-out of her own exploitation.

Thematically, the author doesn't hold back on challenging a plot. At first glance, the entangled issues seem a bit ambitious, but are carefully tied together without losing the seriousness or attention. Nothing is overplayed or underplayed, which still amazes me. Despite the enormous task, the author maintains a thematic balance between good and evil by revealing the gray in between and ultimately, forgiveness and acceptance.

How does an author deal with such topics and not alienate the reader? Lets face it, this book is jammed full of emotionally charged, hot topic stuff that many of us rather not escape to. Comedic relief, that's how. This is accomplished not by making light or fun, but by carefully timing when humor is a.) needed or b.)appropriate.  It works as an excellent tool for tension. I had several laugh-out-loud moments while reading, which given the synopsis, is hard to imagine. The writing is witty, clever and full of personality, which humanizes the characters even more and also, individualizes them. They become relateable, likable and sympathetic. This is necessary when trying to get an audience to care about what is on the page. It becomes almost impossible to detach from the story. There is no doubt that the reader takes this journey with the character and goes through all the stages of discovery.  
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*ARC provided by Merit Press courtesy of Amazon Vine

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