“ I thoroughly enjoyed, Painter, and MICA professor, Barry Nemett's unusual narrative style in this, his first novel “Crooked Tracks”
An inspired blend of comedy, tragedy, poetry, fantasy, art history and imagination give this unique coming of age story its many layers.
Through the troubled memories of the narrator, Nemett creates a richly detailed portrait of a young Jewish boy, Stephen Schaech, who's trying to come to grips with the underlying, unspoken feelings of repressed guilt and his family’s grief surrounding the sudden childhood death of his older brother Howard.
This poignant story takes place in the 1960’s when the teenaged Stephen and his grieving family move to a new town in New Jersey.
Stephen’s unwavering connection to his wise and loving grandfather Oscar and relationship with his first love and soulmate Diane enable him to survive his confusing and tumultuous adolescence. His unfortunate associations with his peer group of violent drug addicted delinquents contribute to his struggles as well.
Oscar is Stephen’s “rock”, who despite becoming a bit senile, provides unconditional love, wisdom and a comforting connection to happier days and Stephen's own Jewish heritage.
Diane creates a connection to art which Stephen uses as an escape route from his inner turmoil. In carefully studying selected paintings and writing revealing poems, he is able to cope with his angst by inventing a new world into which he can escape, with a cast of characters who become very real to him.
Stephen must find a way to come to grips with the details of his past before he can let go of his fantasies and anger and get on with his life.
Woven into this riveting novel are 17 wonderful historical painting illustrations which effectively expand the richly visual narrative.
REGRMBKS wrote this review Friday, July 19, 2013.