One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel is a raw and naked version of what many authors have glamorized and dressed-up to soften the blows of domestic abuse, child abuse (which is psychological and physical). It is rightly done because the narrator is a twelve-year-old boy who's speaking his mind through the prose of One of the Boys.
The narrative is simple yet powerful; moving and desperate and everything in between. Even when the main characters in the book had no names, the story caught my attention from the very first sentence. I could only compare the anonymity of the characters to those people in video recordings whose faces are blurred or they sit in darkness and narrate their heart-wrenching story. This anonymity had the same effect on me. I did feel connected even when there was no mention of names. It was a high-risk play by the author, but the story left me feeling too much of everything and had my heart beating with anxiety. I could connect to the boys on every level.
With the straight-forward narrative, there was no place left for the reader and observer in me to comment or offer a suggestion. As a twelve-year-old boy and his fourteen-year-old brother, they did come up with possibilities and solutions on their own.
How do you cope up with a lying, manipulative, drug-addict father?
How do you seek help from a mother who you've abandoned to be with your father?
How do the boys overcome the psychological and physical abuse suffered by the hands of both their parents?
I have no idea.
I swear to God, One of the Boys made me cry for all those children tangled in this chaotic mess of a life. They're helpless at the hands of their abusers, whom they trust the most. There were disturbing excerpts throughout the book which made me re-read the passages even when they disgusted me to the bone. These passages also made feel grateful for having parents who are such wonderful human beings.
Coming back to the feelings of the boys suffering at the hands of their narcissistic father. Daniel Magariel did a spectacular job of showing the feelings of the two brothers. The angst, the helplessness, isolation, feelings of denial and confusion, and the fear of the unpredictable behavior and punishment at the hands of their father kept the boys on their toes and me on edge.
I reserved my pity for the parents who being adults couldn't get a handle on their own problems and how the boys suffered at their incompetence. The family was dysfunctional at best from all angles, but I rooted for the brothers till the end.
The style in which the epilogue was written was a massive risk, a kind of jerky portrayal of 'what could've been' and it brought tears to my eyes. We don't know what happened to the boys or their father or their mother in the end. It kept me up all night thinking about the possibilities.
Oh. The. Possibilities.
I'm open for discussion because this story/reality really stirred my soul.
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