"One Of The Boys" Review
Father and Sons in “One of the Boys”
In his debut novel, One of the Boys, Daniel Magariel masterfully unveils the simmering addictions and manipulations that drive a father to abuse his raw, yet resilient twelve-year-old son. The codependent father-son experience is so lucidly displayed that the reader might find him or herself just as charmed and just as repulsed by the charismatic father as the book’s unnamed boy narrator.
The story follows the trio - the father, narrator and his older brother - to Albuquerque, where, according to their father, they will start over. A testament to the author’s ability for nuance, the opening scene perfectly reveals the father’s controlling tendencies while withholding his truly brutal tendencies for later. Here, the newly divorced father, “swerving around cars, speeding, honking,” demands his red-faced son tell him what happened between him and his mother earlier that morning.
“I looked to the road to remind him he was driving.” The boy astutely leverages what he can control, which isn’t much. In this scene it’s nothing more than the direction of his gaze. He hopes this unimposing gesture awakens his father to the vulnerability of them both.
And this is just the beginning. We are hyper-vigilant with the son as he lives with the fear of being left out while managing his own physical safety. Eventually, the boy prefers the nights his father is subdued by the white powder he hides in his bedroom. He goes back and forth between loyalty to his mother and loyalty to his father. He sacrifices his own safety be “one of the boys.”
It’s a heartbreaking story, but Magariel doesn’t force emotions or reactions from his readers. He crafted a novel well, which takes its time to reveal the horrors of the manipulative father, just as a manipulator takes his time to squeeze his target into a mangled mass. Yet, Magariel still makes us feel what it’s like to hope to stay a part of the the only family we know even when that family is head toward destruction.
– Katie Baker