Full of curiosity, the kid loved school and loved to learn. His Catholic school was a “Toys R’ Us to make you smart.” Of course, much of the history and debate involving the church did not interest me so much.
The fascinating thing was that although the story centers on Billy from childhood to adulthood, story expands slightly to the other characters, enlightening readers on their bio and history (ex: his mom, Sister Bernadette, Sister Mary, etc.) Sister Mary’s story was particularly sad.
Though sheltered by his mom, Billy had some unsettling experiences in regards to sex—things that made you go WTF!? At times, it was a tad vulgar and crude. I wondered if it was really necessary.
I liked the list that Billy considers the things he learned so far.
Nothing is sacred
God is calling in sick
Everybody is dispensable
People are in pain
People will do anything to make the pain go away
People create their own heaven
People create their own hell
Everybody is both beautiful and ugly
Everybody is insecure
Life is a race to the top
There are no winners
It is impossible to tell the truth
People lie to themselves then to others
Freedom is an illusion
Life is a train to nowhere
Sex destroys love
Love destroys sex
Love makes the world go round
The world stopped spinning a long time ago
I thought this list read almost like a poem, both haunting and beautiful.
Billy is a smart and perceptive kid, who was often bullied by his peers, which he speaks extensively on some, making it, at times, for laborious reading.
“If [the missing concept and perspective] had been there, people would have had to see how bogus and childish and truly embarrassing all the hand-wringing and heart-wrenching and torrential downpour of tears really was—how infantile and cowardly the collective response of the American people was to the events of Sept. 11.” (LOC 1852) I totally agree! In fact, Billy makes some excellent points here.
However, in spite of a few minor oversights, this was still a well-written and thought-provoking story. It’s a critical and comprehensive study on sex, people, social conduct, marriage, religion, America—life.
Honest and clever, story is colorfully rendered in pale beauty and striking candor.
My rating: 4 stars