Friday, December 30, 2011

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

After accidentally firing the rifle his father took from a Japanese soldier, Jack is in trouble. Then, when he mows down his mother's corn that she was growing to help feed senior citizens, Jack is grounded for the rest of the summer, even though his father is the one who told him to do it. Stuck at home and forced to help his dad dig a bomb shelter, Jack is feeling stir crazy. So he is only too happy to help out Mrs. Volker when she needs someone to type up obituaries for the old women who seem to be dying suddenly all over town. Mrs. Volker even promises to help Jack stop the nosebleeds that plague him whenever he even thinks about something scary or gruesome. She proposes to cauterize the inside of his nose at her house even though she can barely move her hands due to the crippling arthritis in her hands. As the summer goes on Jack learns more about history and his town which was started by Eleanor Roosevelt to help poor people get a leg up. He also comes to appreciate some of the odd characters around town even when it seems like he ought to be suspicious as more and more people seem to be dying. This book is obviously partly autobiographical since the main character is named Jack Gantos. It is a nicely written slice of life story in a small, interesting town but I'm left wondering exactly what is the point? It seemed like things ended with a few loose ends. What happened to the harassment by the Hell's Angels? Did the town die out, as seemed to be happening? (Actually, I looked up the real history of Norvelt so I know the answer to that but it's not answered in the story) Did Jack's family move to Florida? Just felt like it went in too many odd directions to me.

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