Category Archives: coming of age

Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer

Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer
by Brian Sweany
Published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop
254 pages
Genre: literature; coming of age
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
5 / 5

Yeah, the title. I hear what you’re saying, and I had a similar reaction. Huh? That was the best they could do?

The thing is, it works. Everything in this book works.

Welcome to the 1980s, complete with occasional cultural references, and the life of Hank Fitzpatrick. As Hank tells us his story, he takes us back through his life, never flinching from the ugly or unseemly. The fun begins with the opening words:

My morning gets off to its usual start. I wake up. Masturbate. Eat some bacon and eggs. Drink a cup of heavily creamed and sugared coffee. Have a frank discussion with my father about his testicles …

Go ahead. Pretend you didn’t laugh. We both know you’re lying.

Hank takes off from there, recalling a godfather whose legacy is dirty and cruel, a mother whose delight in her family is offset by her reaction to a tragedy, and a father. Oh, a father. Hank’s dad is the dad we all want, a man whose devotion to his family is beyond compare, who teaches his son by example and by proclamation, and whose presence in his family’s life is vital and dynamic.

Hank doesn’t so much aspire to be his father, or even to live up to him, as he does to have as much fun as he can. This includes copious amounts of alcohol and sex. In high school, Hank falls in love, and his devotion to this girl is as intense as that he shares with his friends and, yes, family. Hank’s coterie of chums does not vary; his boyhood friends are his friends into adulthood. He may all but set up a turnstile into his bedroom, but he’s actually a pretty devoted man. The high school girlfriend comes and goes in his life, perhaps because Hank is averse to change. As he says at the start of the book, his days take a predictable turn. He finds comfort in that.

But life is about as predictable as a horse race. You absolutely cannot rely on anything except change, and that’s where Hank struggles to adapt. He copes by indulging in booze and broads, leaning on his friends for help. Many times while reading this, I wish I had a Hank in my life. He gives as good as he gets, even if there were times I wanted to shake him. He made me laugh and he made me cry, he made me cringe and he made me fist pump with joy. His voyage from boy to man takes him all over the place emotionally, and he takes us right along with him.

You will need to fortify yourself with a box of tissues, because there will be times you cry. You also may find yourself gobsmacked with shock at some of the things that happen. But isn’t that what happens in life?

Read this book. Then come back and thank me for telling you about it.

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