Sam Brandt is a long-term denizen of Connecticut's renowned Leverett School. Then Leverett's headmaster asks Sam to help investigate a charge brought by one of his classmates that he was abused by a teacher. Sam is flooded with memories, above all of his overwhelming love for his friend Eddie and the support of his most inspiring mentor, Theodore Gibson. Sam's search for the truth becomes a quest to get at the heart of Leverett, then and now.
His rendition of heteroflexibility in Vietnam-era New England has a guilelessness that strains credulity. Boys snuggle, hold hands, confess their homosexual inclinations without shame ... Alongside such wishful uninhibitedness are scenes that verge on parody ... Improbabilities compound and betoken a deeper murkiness in the novel’s vision. Is this the story of a gay man’s coming-of-age? Is it about the rot that many venerable institutions cover up? Is it about the bafflements of love? For Galassi, it’s about all of these, without full commitment to any one. The novel has a halting rhythm, structured as a series of vignettes that sometimes fizzle or introduce dead ends. The prose, much of it flat or clichéd, only underscores the desultory effect ... Galassi is convincing when he depicts the insularity of boarding schools and adolescent bonds. But when he tries to express the mysteries of the heart, or capture the verisimilitude of boys on the brink of manhood, he fails the grade.
A classic coming-of-age novel leavened with gay content, which is handled beautifully. As for Sam, he’s a terrific, empathic character whose life is fascinating, as is this beautifully conceived and written novel.