four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-PleaseDontComeBack"When I was sixteen, my father went to the moon." That’s how narrator Michael Smolij opens this story about the strange summer of 1991, when all the fathers disappeared from a working-class Ukrainian suburb of Detroit. The factories in town have shut down; times are tough. Michael’s uncle was one of the first to leave, and now his unemployed dad has left for parts unknown. While the women try to deal with the situation, boys like Michael struggle to fill the void. Must he make the same mistakes as his father?
Harcourt. 273 pages. $23. ISBN: 0151011354

Detroit Free Press 4 of 5 Stars
"The real draw ... is Michael Smolij himself. Bakopoulos never lets him become maudlin or clichéd." Marta Salij

Hartford Courant 4 of 5 Stars
"This is a graceful first book by a novelist who says in an author’s note that it is an elegy for his father’s generation. It will be especially interesting to see where this particular son goes for material in his next novel." Kit Reed

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"… Dean Bakopoulos’s debut shows him to be a steady hand at drawing subtle magic from simple means." Joel Turnipseed

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"For what could have been just another whiny, blaming, prototypical parents-they-mess-you-up-style novel is instead something far more haunting and interesting. … By deftly welding magic realism with social satire, Bakopoulos captures the dark side of the working-class dream." Elissa Shappell

San Antonio Exp-News 3 of 5 Stars
"Bakopoulos forms Michael into a prototypical Everyman; he’s not as angry as some of the other boys, but he is hesitant to do anything overtly heroic." Adam Schragin

Critical Summary

The term "heartbreaking" appears frequently in reviews of this debut novel, whose title is derived from a Charles Mingus jazz composition. With its undercurrent of magic and social satire, Michael’s coming-of-age story struck a strong chord with most critics. The main character is, at times, annoyingly indecisive, but the 12 years of his life presented in this compelling story ring true. Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon should be read as a tribute to the past generation of working-class American men.