There is a certain degree of mystery in every novel. What’s most impressive is when the plot surfaces, the reader gets a sense of the direction of the story, yet every page is as important as the next and you cannot seem to stop turning them. That’s what it’s like reading Daniel Magariel’s One of the Boys.
My wife likes to joke that she taught me how to read. What she did was make me a reader. I always loved writing, but it’s difficult to write well without reading frequently. I started with fast-paced mystery novels, but my interest quickly shifted toward more literary books (this was likely due to the many English courses I took at the University of Michigan).
The term “literary” can be a turn-off to readers. I get that. It sounds dry, dragged out, deep, slow. It takes commitment to finish, and often it takes much more brain power than someone wants to expel while reading for leisure. One of the Boys, however, is far from dry. It’s far from slow. The book, as its publisher put it, “is 176 perfect, stunning pages.”
The length itself makes it easy to maneuver through the novel. Don’t let the length fool you though — there is plenty packed into this book. What’s missing are unnecessary details that serve only to add to the word count. What’s included is a powerful story about two brothers.
Their parents have just gotten divorced. They hate their mother. They move with their father to New Mexico to start over — just the boys, as their father puts it. However, it isn’t long before they experience the man their father will become as his vices take over.
Magariel evokes empathy for his characters. He takes you inside the head of a 12-year-old boy to experience the pain, joy, suffering, excitement and heartbreak firsthand.
One of the Boys is a tale of fiction, though only in the literal sense. The characters are real. The story is real. And that’s where the power of the novel originates — the second-guessing, the connection, the thought that “this really happens every day in America.”
This is Magariel’s debut novel, but I look forward to many more to come. He’s a gifted storyteller.