The Dangerous Lives Of Altar Boys By Chris Furman
Heartbreaking yet hilarious, this posthumous novel set in Savannah, Ga., in the 1970s chronicles a school year in the life of narrator Francis Doyle, an eighth-grader at the parish school of the Blessed Heart. Though the plot turns on the youthful pranks of Francis's gang, Fuhrman brings to his characters a near-adult consciousness as rites of passage like the first kiss are interwoven with imaginative acts of adolescent revolt and moments of terrible family life. Francis, soulful and suffering from a hernia, is beaten regularly by his father and turns to drink. He falls in love with Margie--a delicate, off-balance girl with a "wrist fragile as a swan's throat," who attempted suicide the year before--and longs for her with a sensual need that is captivating. When Francis first sees her, in church, the touching, love-at-first-sight moment is juxtaposed with the slapstick antics of a dog, with "tags clinking," who urinates against the altar. By marrying the earnest to the ridiculous, Fuhrman captures the sublime intensity of adolescence. But the novel expands beyond first-rate character studies as Francis and his friends struggle against the racial prejudice that saturates their school and neighborhood and threatens to explode into a race riot when a black schoolmate breaks a duck's wing with a baseball bat. Fuhrman (1960-1991) died of cancer while working on the final revision of this book--his first and last, which can be compared to many of the classic coming-of-age novels.
(click the image for an excerpt from amazon.com)

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