America, 1955. For a 16-year-old boy out in the world alone for the first time, every day's an education in the hard work and boredom of migrant labor; every day teaches him something more about friendship, or hunger, or profanity, or lust--always lust. He learns how a poker game, or hitching a ride, can turn deadly. He discovers the secret sadness and generosity to be found on a lonely farm in the middle of nowhere. Then he joins up with a carnival and becomes a grunt, running a ride and shilling for the geek show. He's living the hard carny life and beginning to see the world through carny eyes. He's tough. Cynical. By the end of the summer he's pretty sure he knows it all. Until he meets Ruby.
A masterly piece of storytelling
Not for the faint-hearted, opening with a sickening scene of incest forcing a 16-year-old boy to leave home and gathering momentum with gritty, though never gratuitous, scenes of painful childbirth, pigeon neck-ringing and exploding pheasants. But it works
Exceptional and so heartbreakingly real
Paulsen's coming-of-age memoir is nearly Steinbeckian in its unadorned but effective prose, and the events of the author's young life have a universality that will draw in readers heading for their own rites of passage