Who The Man
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Earl is physically developed beyond his years. In direct contrast to his stature, his emotional development is retarded. He is childishly devoted to his parents - especially his mother, who relies on food and her gentle nature to cement the bond between them. His father encourages him to defend himself aggressively against the insidious bullying he receives from his peers and those who are older than him who have a point to prove. With this background of immaturity and taunts, it is inevitable that Earl will develop a crush on his former babysitter, Louisa - inevitable too, that this will end in disaster, when, not understanding courtship, he tries to save her from the very boy she loves. His only sanctuary from the slow collapse of his life is a ruined church on the very outskirts of town. When he unwittingly leads older boys there who have plied him with drink, then this haven, too, vanishes. The final anchor in Earl's life founders when his father confesses to an affair and leaves the family home. Curiously, this proves something of a relief to Earl, who had sensed for months that something was wrong but had to contend with his parents' erroneous decision to shield him from the truth. This is a book for thoughtful and capable readers, since much of it focuses on Earl's introspection, delivering his view of the world through eyes which do not see the whole picture and leave us to complete it. However, it covers what will be familiar ground for many adolescents and will strike a chord of sympathy even in those who have no first-hand experience of emotional trauma.