If Jack’s in Love by Stephen Wetta

Debut novels are always worth checking out, usually this is the author’s “Great American Novel” and you can sometimes find a real gem. Stephen Wetta makes a stunning debut with this coming of age novel. It’s easy to root for Jack Witcher, the wise and wistful 12-year-old narrator who is on the precipice of adolescence. The cast of characters is entertaining and the setting of the book is seeped with the atmosphere.

Told in the first person,  Jack is a very bright good kid who is an outcast because of the antics of his father and older brother Stan, which cause the family to be deemed “trash”. Stan and his father are not without redeeming qualities, as they are skilled in the “manly arts” of fixing cars, fighting and attracting women. Things come to a head when Stan is accused of the disappearance and later murder of a promising local boy with whom he had a very public feud. To complicate matters the dead boy’s sister is Jack’s first love interest, Myra Joyner. Confused Jack turns to a local jeweler, Moses Gladstein, for advice and stability.

The doomed alliance of the Joyner family and the Witcher family reads like a modern day Romeo and Juliet. The setting of the story, a southern town in the summer of 1967, is sensual and vivid with memorable details: Jack’s brother wearing sunglasses and getting high in the woods; Jack’s father playing the blues with a black friend, oblivious to his neighbors’ prejudices; Jack kissing Myra in an elegant living room at their neighbor’s pool party. It’s a murder story, a love story, and a coming-of-age story all in one, told with humor and acuity. I look forward to reading more of Wetta’s work!

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One Response to “If Jack’s in Love by Stephen Wetta”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    This sounds great – I do usually enjoy your picks, Bob, so I am going to look for this one for sure. Thanks!

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