by Murad Kalam Simon and Schuster, October 2003 $23.00, ISBN 0-743-24418-4
Murad Kalam's gripping and compassionate first novel, Night Journey, resembles Boyz in the Hood, in its depiction of hell amidst what should be a paradise. The slum inhabited by Eddie Bloodpath, his brother, Turtle, and their mother and grandmother is on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona. As in the Boyz movie, all manner of ghastliness happens in a place of warm desert sunshine, palm trees and mountains. But despite the squalor that afflicts the residents of the Third Ward, the book is hopeful, humane and even has a subtle, subversive humor.
The book opens when Eddie is 10 years old. The very first scene is one of death--a neighbor lady has died, and Turtle, after some skirmishes with local boys, claims her house and uses it as a bordello/flophouse. Turtle, mind you, is just a couple of years older than Eddie.
This intruduces Kalam's theme of children who are badly parented, or not parented at all. Grown-ups consistently let these kids down, and Eddie takes whatever fathering or mothering he can get, whether it's from the sad, bruised, beloved prostitute Tessa, or other inept parent figures.
Despite their inadequacies, most of the people Eddie encounters see the boy's potential. It's the violent and nihilistic Turtle, for example, who sees otherwise in his young brother.
Kalam's writing is beautiful and muscular, even the minor characters are well drawn, including Eddie's girlfriend. One thinks one would despise Eddie Sr. for causing his sons such pain, but when he finally shows up he's so befuddled and useless, he only elicits pity.
Kalam's knowledge of boxing is comprehensive, for Night Journey is among other things, a great boxing novel.
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|Publication:||Black Issues Book Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2004|
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