Tuesday, May 14, 2013

1960 - Onion John

Finally I couldn't put off reading this book any more. It did not seem like it would be that interesting to me, and sure enough, it wasn't! In fact, I couldn't wait to get finished with it. I skimmed at times, thinking, Get on with it!

Onion John, written by Joseph Krumgold in 1959, is on the surface a story about a boy's relationship with the local eccentric, "Onion John," so called because he is fond of eating raw onions. But gradually you realize the real relationship being explored is the one between the boy, Andy, and his dad, a hardware store owner who never got over his unrealized dreams of going to MIT and becoming an engineer. He is unrelenting in trying to slot Andy into fulfilling his own lost chances.

I found the interaction between Andy and his father the most interesting part of the plot, but that is only developed in the latter part of the book. The rest is taken up by lots and lots of Onion John's eccentricities, his bizarre customs and superstitions he performs to ensure good luck and fertility to the town of Serenity. Andy, as the only one who can understand what he is saying, is his main helper, to the dismay of his father, who harps on him about maintaining a scientific mind.

The details of the incantations, fasts, marches, smokes, and gestures were tedious to me. I couldn't warm up to Onion John. I couldn't get a clear picture of Andy's friends, or any of the other folks of Serenity. The tale is told in the first person, Andy's voice. I can't say why the telling didn't really appeal, even though I do like first person. I think it was because it seemed to be told in the perspective of Andy's present, but it seemed, at the same time, to be an older, wiser voice, more adult.

I bought this book at Goodwill for $1.49. It has the markings that show it was a school book, with a level of 4.5 and AR points of 8.0.

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