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Brewster Paperback – 1 Aug 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846274990
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846274992
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 868,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A masterpiece of winter sorrow... Slouka's real triumph here is capturing the amber of grief, the way love and time have crystallized these memories into something just as gorgeous as it is devastating. --Ron Charles

It's a gripping, gritty narrative of teenage rebellion in equal parts Bruce Springsteen and Alan Sillitoe, though Slouka's talent is the ability to suggest the dark undertow of suburbia through an immaculately chosen images and simple clarity of phrase. --Guardian

Told in minimalist prose, Brewster is a quietly potent coming-of-age novel. --The Sunday Times

About the Author

MARK SLOUKA is the author of a collection of stories, Lost Lake (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1998); two novels, God's Fool (named as one of the San Francisco Chronicle's and the Washington Post's Books of the Year in 2002), and The Visible World (British Book Award Finalist and one of the Chicago Tribune's Books of the Year in 2007); and a collection of essays, Essays from the Nick of Time (winner of the PEN/Diamonstein-Speilvogel Award for 2010). Three of his essays have been have been selected for inclusion in The Best American Essays (1999, 2000, and 2004), and two of his short stories have been selected for The Best American Short Stories (2006 and 2011) as well as the PEN/O. Henry Award (2011 and 2012). Mark is a contributing editor at Harper's, was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005, and currently lives in upstate New York.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is the third novel by the writer I have read, each being different. It is a harrowing and in many ways shocking story with the very occasional element of humour, and no redemption comes at the end. Yet due to masterful writing it was a pleasure for me to read it. Unlike Visible World, which is set in Europe and has a European feel, this novel is very American and so it helps if you are tuned to novels set in small-town environment in the US.
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By sj on 11 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of my favourite books ever. I couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks. The characters are very real, the story is engrossing, I can't find fault with Brewster and can only sing it's praises. I've recommended it to friends who are dear to me.
READ IT and see. You will love it too.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By altoland on 24 April 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another American growing into adulthood story with a twist you could see coming. The denouement was a little dues ex machina. A good read all the same.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 86 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A boy's coming-of-age tale in the vein of A Separate Peace 20 Aug. 2013
By B Sperber - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A gorgeously written and immensely affecting coming of age story. Jon Mosher, the child of German immigrants, grows up in Brewster in 1968, around the time of the town's gentrification. Race relations and racism set an underlying tone. Jon's rejected by many because of his foreign-ness, until he meets two unlikely friends and forms a bond with them. In high school, a teacher almost blackmails him to join the track and cross country teams, where Jon finds the most solace and personal achievements.

There is much to say on Slouka's comments on violence and love in the family unit, how it shapes us to behave in certain ways and leads children onto various paths. There's Ray, whose dark home life lead him to act out and pick fights in school and Jon's own mother is so devastated by the loss of a different son she can only look at him with contempt. What the reader sees is the different forms love can manifest itself in: when one transposes love onto a friend because they lose it from a parent, when a family stays together only because they have to, when a parent's own struggles lead to disdain for a child.

The backdrop of Brewster, a small blue-collar town on the border of Connecticut in New York, sets the tone. It's a town where people might get stuck and the boys promise to leave it all behind, one wonders if they ever will achieve such a goal. Small town life becomes a theme here - as Ray is making plans to depart, the boys ignore the possibility that people might know something. Small towns lead to gossip and many people know Ray's personal history without having to snoop. It's an uneasy time for the town as much as it is this group of friends: buses of inner-city kids are shipped to Brewster for integrated education, war veterans carry dark memories of WWII, and the risk of being enlisted for Vietnam for the students augments further tension. Talks of leaving become as much about avoiding the draft as it does just abandoning the town itself.

This book falls into the ranks of books like A Separate Peace, The Catcher in the Rye. One might think of it as a John Irving novel set in Putnam County, but with fewer laughs and greater diversity within the page. Slouka is the best kind of literary writer: one who writes a story that is rooted in time but feels timeless, so rooted in a town that few know but feels familiar to all, and most of all, a writer who can write literary fiction that speaks to both women and men.

And cheers to Norton for the jacket -- it is as enticing to the female reader as I hope it is to men and speaks to the beauty one would find in Putnam County
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Pamela A. Poddany - Published on
Format: Hardcover

What a lovely, wonderfully wild, sentimental, heartbreaking, down-to-earth, sad, joyful book this is. BREWSTER grabbed me by my heart with the first sentence and left me gasping -- and crying -- at the end. I have not shed so many tears over a book in quite a while. I loved this book.

Meet Jon Mosher, a teenager living in Brewster, New York, in the late 1960's and 1970's. This is an era filled with the Stones, Beatles, Woodstock, Nam, and many other history-making events. Jon's mom and dad are immigrants who decided to set down their roots in Brewster and start a shoe business and family. When Jon is four his older brother is killed and his family never recovers from this tragedy. In fact, Jon's mother seems to forget she has one son left -- Jon -- who needs her love and attention but only receives rejection, coldness, and absolutely nothing from her. She is a woman so pulled apart by her young son's death that she cannot face the world. She makes her son, Jon, suffer as much as she is by refusing to be a mother to him, barely acknowledging his existence. Jon's father is a good man, quiet and hard-working, yet he loves him son and shows him that love the best he can.

Jon Mosher, perpetually sad, quiet, lacking self-confidence, becomes the unlikely friend of Ray Cappicciano, the town bad boy, a rebel, a smart mouth, good looking, confident, street smart kind of guy. Ray has a younger baby brother he helps raise and a mean, drunk, abusive father, the kind of guy who strikes fear in everyone's heart.

Surprisingly, the two boys become fast and loyal friends. They hold each other in high regard and soon are inseparable. They have another close friend, Frank, who is very straight-laced and into religion. Then, enter into the picture, beautiful, out-going, kind, sweet Karen Dorsey. For Karen and one of the boys, it is love at first sight and an eternal love.

Jon is into track and this becomes a big part of his life. Ray is into fighting and doing exactly as he wishes -- all the time keeping out of the way of his dad and his fast-flying fists. All is not well with either boy regarding their family life and author Slouka takes you to places that you wish these young men didn't have to visit.

Join Jon, Ray, Karen, and Frank as they face daily life growing up in a small town in New York, facing the every day challenges all teens face. However, for Jon and Ray, with their extenuating life circumstances, their day-to-day lives constantly brutal [be it mental, emotional, or physical], filled with horrifying conditions that prove to be devastating, their lives do not ever compare to others. Can these boys survive and turn their lives around, finding happiness and fulfillment along the way? As brothers of another mother, it's not hard to imagine these two grand young guys can do just that -- find peace and happiness.

Author Mark Slouka writes like a dream -- or in this book's case -- a nightmare at times. He had me on the edge of my seat, knowing, just KNOWING, something big was going to happen, yet never letting any clues out as to what this huge climatic event would be. I could not turn the pages quickly enough, kept guessing as to what was exactly going to occur -- and was wrong each time I guessed. The ending of this book left me wrung out, in tears, and exclaiming out loud OHHHH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIS. BOOK. IS. JUST. THAT. GOOD. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It will be one of my top ten of this year -- Hats off to Mark Slouka. You hit the nail on the head every time and have a new fan in me!

Thank you.

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Large-hearted Novel 10 Aug. 2013
By A Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a sweet, sad, brilliantly written novel about the sorts of people who don't usually get novels written about them. The book's set in 1969-70 in the town of Brewster, New York. The two guys at the center of the book, Ray and Jon, want more than the life of their small town can possibly yield, but they're at a loss about how to get it. Ray's a tough-guy, though with highly tuned feelings; Jon is a reader, a brooder (and the narrator) living the life of an orphan in a house with his two parents. (It's a complex story.) The book revolves around their mutual efforts to get free--break on through to the other side. Their hunger for Freedom is strong--but Fate in the person of Ray's father and the in burdens that Jon's parents bring from old Europe is also a potent force. The characters are patiently, lovingly drawn; the scenes perfectly set--you can taste and smell the town of Brewster. What happens at the close is perfect--a wise, worldly, loving book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
NOT "Running on Empty" 6 Mar. 2014
By J. K. Grice - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have read a lot of coming-of-age novels over the years, and I would put Mark Slouka's BREWSTER up there with the best of them. The thoughts and actions of the teenagers Jon, Ray, Karen, and Frank are spot on, and Slouka does a masterful job with the sparse, edgy prose. It doesn't matter if you grew up in a small town in California or North Dakota or New York, adolescent angst and growing pains are pretty universal throughout the landscape of America. Tragedy and sadness are also ever present in the lives of small town families. Growing up in a town of a thousand people myself, I knew kids like Ray and Jon and I was aware of how parenting (or the lack there of) greatly affected the self-esteem and sense of worth in my classmates that walked the same hallways that I did. Of course, like Jon in the novel, looking back in middle age, you understand even more about "what goes on behind closed doors."

So many details from this book resonated with my own past. The song snippets from groups like Creedence, running track in the cold and snow, and walking all over town were things I strongly identified with. I think both the starkness and the brutality that Slouka brings to light in BREWSTER are wonderfully powerful. They ring so true as we grow up and cross that bridge from youthful innocence to adulthood and the harsher realities we are forced to come to grips with. BREWSTER is at once a quiet, hard-scrabble account of a small town teen's childhood, as well as a thoughtful study of how we live with violence, abuse, and the dysfunctional world that surrounds us all.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Slouka cheated on this one. 2 Dec. 2013
By Darlene Everhart - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
At the center of this novel is a most disturbing and horrific event that acts as a sort of black hole toward which all of the other minor events and goings-on are sucked in and destroyed. One might argue that since the horrific event obviously impacted me, then it must be good writing. However, I feel as if Slouka was cheating by creating such a horrific event (which is easy enough to do) and expecting it to prop up the whole novel (which is not so easy to do). The rest of the novel needed to have more depth to support the central event. I felt like the character development was all on the surface--I never got a sense of the characters' inner workings. The narrator's constant analogies to his running became so tedious that I had to skip over them.
I remember reading in some forum or other Slouka's musings on his sensitivities to criticism. That together with the great number of positive reviews (which I don't understand at all--they seem to say the opposite, that the characters are developed; and the reviews glide over the central event) makes me suspicious. For an example of good character development, see The Virgins by Pamela Erens.
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