Thursday, August 16, 2018

"Nowhere Boy" and "Boys of Steel"

The latest novel by my friend Katherine Marsh is Nowhere Boy. (Before we go further, if you have not read her book Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, please do. I'll hold.)

In late April, Kate emailed that she would like to send me an advanced reader's copy of Nowhere Boy because it contains a surprise…for me.

As I said, Kate and I are friends, but we don't go way back or know each other's favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry's. So I was indeed surprised, and touched even before I knew how special the surprise was. 

Page 106:

With a big smile, I wrote Kate "If I read it without knowing you, I wouldn't assume it was my Superman book! Can we really be sure? : )"

She replied "It is definitely your Superman book and you can claim it as such! In fact I know of no others but I'm less of an expert in that area than you. The other book I reference is Shaun Tan's The Arrival. They're hidden in there as toy surprises."

Of course, most readers are like Kate: they aren't able to rattle off a range of books about Superman (let alone books about the creators of Superman). Therefore they won't know exactly what the character is referring to, and this is not a key plot point, so I do not want to make a bigger deal out of it than it is, but the fact remains that I'm honored. My research has been cited in books but as far as I know, this is the first time that one of my books has been mentioned in fiction.

I highly recommend Nowhere Boy (rolling out in 15 languages!) for reasons far and plenty beyond the allusion to one of my books. It is a tender, thoughtful story for our times, centered on the Syrian refugee crisis (which is at times paralleled to the plight of European Jews during World War II). I had only an abstract understanding of the dangers facing a refugee in Europe and learned a lot from this well-researched novel. 

Kate's young characters are corkscrewed into complicated and sometimes unthinkable situations which they handle in ingenious ways. They evolve, they fight (in more ways than one), and, believably, they don't always win. What I would call the biggest twist is especially stealthy and delivers a satisfying emotional payoff.

And the story behind the story—starting with Kate's discovery of a tiny door in the basement of the Belgian townhouse her family was renting—is fascinating in its own right. Look into it.

Thank you again, Kate, for the nod and for the book.

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