Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Skippy Dies

I really hate to ruin anyone's day, but 14-year-old Skippy does not make it past page 5 in this second novel from Paul Murray.  As you can probably deduce from the title, Daniel 'Skippy' Juster, dies.  The first half of the book is dedicated to the lead-up to the death, while the second half deals with the fallout.  The majority takes place in an exclusive and long-standing Catholic boys' school, and its nearby town.
Although there are several plot points, including string theory, a teacher's affair with a substitute, pills, and at least one teacher's battle with some illicit longings, this is a character-driven piece.  Skippy is dealing with some issues at home and is not known for being a lothario; you can imagine his surprise when one of the prettiest girls at the neighboring all-girls' school takes up with him.  Skippy's roommate, Ruprecht, is hiding his own secrets while constantly building new and outlandish inventions.  Their small group of friends falls apart after Skippy's death, each one dealing with the loss in his own way.  A history teacher is having a quarter-or-third-life crisis, which he deals with by taking up with a geography substitute during a school dance, leaving a number of students unchaperoned and the school open to a host of complaints.
This is just a small glimpse into the 647-page tome.  It's not that Murray is long-winded; it's that there is so much going on in and it's difficult to maintain a steady stream of interest in such a multitude of characters.  Perhaps if I had read it over a couple of days, rather than a couple of weeks, I would have enjoyed this more.  It is an enjoyable read if you don't go in expecting madcap adventures in an all-boys' school; adjust your expectations accordingly, and read in long spurts if possible.


  1. I was sure Skippy was going to be a dog!! I've now recommended "Labor Day" to everyone I know and am going to the library today to pick up another book by Joyce Maynard. Just finished "The Good Daughters" and it was OK but not as good as "Labor Day".

  2. I have officially started on Labor Day, and am just speeding through it! What a great recommendation, GINC! xo Abbi