The week in California seemed to fly past. Since I arrived home I have been busy getting things in order for Christmas. After preparing the goodies to take to the newlyweds' house in Christmas and making a pot of chili, I settled down not for a nap but to finish reading TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND (Viking, 2009). The entire story takes place in a little under one week in September of 1973. It opens as Karl Shoemaker prepares for his first day of the school year, the first day of being NORMAL according to his plan. But things are far from normal in the Shoemaker household. Karl cares for his mother whose general condition is either drunk or hung over. Other duties include shoveling cat excrement off any flat surface (including his bed), loosening a window sash so her does not get locked out after his late shift cleaning the local burger joint is over, and repairing anything around his house. Karl wants just to be left alone this year, to not be part of the Madman Underground, a therapy group he has been part of for quite a few years. He just wants to be one of the other kids, the normal ones, hang on to graduation and then join the Army. Life, however, is just not going to cooperate with Karl.
Fresh, smart, unique: this book has it all from the totally original Karl Shoemaker and all of the Madman Underground group to the totally believable life of kids who are somehow surviving despite the absolutely crappy lives they have been handed, to the totally natural way the back story unfolds through the eyes of Karl. Lots of other words come to mind: raw, emotional, surprising and always HOPEFUL in a world that seems to have so little hope.