One of The Boys by Daniel Magariel

30753637A riveting and emotionally harrowing debut about two young brothers and their physically and psychologically abusive father—One of the Boys is 176 perfect, stunning pages by a major new talent.

The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then violent.

Set in the sublimely stark landscape of suburban New Mexico and a cramped apartment shut tight to the world, One of the Boys conveys with stunning prose and chilling clarity a young boy’s struggle to hold onto the dangerous pieces of his shattered family. Harrowing and beautiful, Daniel Magariel’s masterful debut is a story of survival: two foxhole-weary brothers banding together to protect each other from the father they once trusted, but no longer recognize. With the emotional core of A Little Life and the compact power of We the Animals, One of the Boys is among the most moving and remarkable debut novels you’ll ever read.

*I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for a review*

This book is only 176 pages but my, does it cover off some despicable human behavior. Two young brothers ‘stuck’ in between their parents personal demons and a divorce process. The way the boys are manipulated by their father is truly abominable. The mother… well… she appears to be the bully, then the victim and then just a weak example of a woman. I wonder- why does a novel have to be so entirely filled with misery?

As I read this story through the narrative and eyes of the younger brother, I could understand his thoughts, his feelings of guilt, his moments of truth and realization. What made me sad was the fact that there should not have been any guilt and that in the end him and his older brother were only clinging to moments of happiness. Rare moments of normality and that these occasional times of peace and togetherness made the bad moments just all right. Like a wife not leaving her husband even though he beats her, but he always says sorry and maybe even brings flowers. You get me? It’s all kinds of wrong and fiction as this novel may be, for some children and youngsters this is also the reality and I guess that’s why this story rattled me. It could be an episode of someone’s real life.

One of the Boys addresses themes of drug abuse, physical and mental abuse. It delivers immense feelings of hopelessness, hope and then hopelessness again- all through the eyes of a child and his brother who look up to their undeserving father and would do anything for his love. The prose in this novel appears effortless and effective as every word and thought and action is pulsing with human weakness, lies, the death of innocence. The whole environment is described so well I could smell the stench of stale air and cigarettes and hangovers, and feel the misery of this “dungeon”, I was living the life the boys were living.

Having said all of the above, it’s no wonder I cannot see how this can become someone’s favorite book in the sense that they would want to read this again. Or in the sense that they somehow treasure it. One of the Boys packs a punch, for sure, but it doesn’t offer any balance- this story is just a long string of misery. Personally, the ending left me with dark thoughts, and even though real life sometimes really isn’t anything but piss&shit, I would have liked to have finished on a higher note. But that’s just my opinion. It has an open ending with no real conclusion which in turn discounts any progress for any of the characters. Nothing got better and nothing got worse. Rating: 2 stars- It was OK.

24 comments

  1. Wow, this author really meant a dark read! There seems to be no light for the characters, especially the boys. Divorce is a hardship in itself but weighed with all the different and as dark subject, this book won’t cheer anyone up. I do think it is necessary to talk about it and depict it in books but you are right, a bit of light after a strong emotional and exhausting journey would have made the mind slightly lighter and hope present, even for a tiny tiny guest appearance. Fabulous review of a book that I feel needs to be read but at the right time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you.. yeah, the writing is really good but blimey… I just couldn’t deal.. a lot of people rated the book high but I felt I needed to reflect how it left me feeling. as you know I deal well with dark, this novel was dark AND depressing… anyway, I agree, topic is important and we shouldn’t shy away from it ever.

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  2. I wonder if the author’s intentions of leaving this novel so miserable and concluding the way it has were to convey the true brutality of the situation? It would definitely make for a difficult read. I will choose to forgo this one for personal reasons. I think it would present many challenges I am not prepared to tackle.

    I love how straightforward you presented this review! So well done.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, this novel is very much realistic… everyone’s stories don’t necessarily end on a high note so I can;t fault what Magariel did there… I hope I managed to convince the review readers that this is a very well written book, on an important subject but my overall feeling was just too heavy in the end. Which is strange because I don’t usually mind the dark reading…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes.. i can’t deny it was vell written and delivered the whole atmosphere and mood of the story but personally didn’t enjoy this as it was too hopeless… but a lot of people liked the book more so I hope I haven’t been to critical of the novel.

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  3. Wow. This sounds a lot darker than I thought it would be. I have this on my TBR for the month of March and I’m somehow really intrigued by your review. A tunnel with no light at the end, yet the story still manages to convey something realistic and dark. Looking forward to find out how I’ll “enjoy” this read. Great review, again. 😉

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanking you… I’m positive you’ll appreciate the book a lot more than I did… well.. I do appreciate the book for what it is, but I don’t think a book has managed to get me quite depressed like this since Remarque’s novels. maybe I was in a mood as well… who knows… Look forward to your review 🙂

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  4. What a powerful review, Liis. You completely identified every reason why I avoid books like this. I know that on some level I’m shutting out the realities other people are experiencing. But, why would I willingly bring that unhappiness into my life in my free time? Does that make me a bad person? ::begin existential crisis:: This sounds incredibly moving but also terrifying. Those poor boys. Do you have any idea if the author has personal experience with similar situations?

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  5. I was just talking to another blogger about balance when a book is issue related. I don’t think I could make it through this book. Youngsters being in devastating emotional states because of their environment really bothers me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a tricky one isn’t it? The balance thing.. I mean, after all fiction isn’t a news article that has to cover off all possible angles. A book can be written without balance to convey the dark, gloomy kind of read so in this case, I believe I was being too judgy and based the review on my ‘taste’ (I’m thinking about your earlier comment 🙂 )
      But, then again, if there is no balance, especially with sensitive issues, then how could a book appeal to majority of readers?

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