By Fred Venturini
Available November 4 from Picador (Macmillan)
(A version was previously published as THE SAMARITAN by Blank Slate Press.)
Dale Sampson, through a fortuitous game of Blind Man's Bluff becomes Mack Tucker's best friend. Before that, Dale was a lonely, ignored boy. But together, he and Mack have big dreams. That is, until a horrific tragedy at the end of their junior year. A tragedy that leads to Dale discovering that he can regenerate.
THE HEART DOES NOT GROW BACK begins much like a YA novel, full of young love and sports triumph. It becomes something much more bleak, although it always retains a dark humor and eventually finds hope. Dale is a broken, pitiable man, and I often just wanted for him to get a good therapist. At the same time, even at his lowest point, he retained the ability to think and plan that made him once so promising.
Over the course of its pages, THE HEART DOES NOT GROW BACK takes on ethics, reality television, and domestic abuse. But its heart is always the characters, who are all dealing with trauma in their own ways.
I often disliked Dale. In fact, none of the characters are written to be particularly likeable. They're deeply flawed people. As Dale is the protagonist, we get to know him in particular. He's obsessive about women, has a bit of a savior complex, and is pretty confrontational. It works because author Fred Venturini understands that these things are flaws and that Dale needs to work on them.
THE HEART DOES NOT GROW BACK is an intense reading experience. As Dale cuts away more and more of himself, I feared the promise of the title coming true. From coming-of-age tale, to reality TV satire and slice-of-life superhero, to nailbiter, this is a memorable book.
I have one copy to giveaway to someone with a US or Canada mailing address.
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