I think anyone who had a group of close-knit friends in their youth can relate to this story of coming to maturity.
One caution: there is a LOT of foul language and some situations that can offend moral sensibilities; that made this book difficult for me personally to read.
Along the lines of the language, there is a lot of Boston dialect used, making some of the book more accessible to the New England reader. One of the things that I found to be a bit of a catch-22 with this book, is that the story itself, being a home coming and youve got to realize that the world isnt a fairyland type of tale, along with the deep sentimentalism that almost drips from the pages, gears this book more toward the female reader (Not all, but some) however this book goes on incessantly about sports (with the assumption that you know what football game Roy is referencing), women, and who slept with who. The fact that Roy and Bobby have a sister doesnt even come out until almost 1/3 of the way into the book and then shes never referenced again. Generally the typical Homecoming book had the main character return home to find things have changed, they then have an epiphany in regards to either themselves or the world and the book ends with them becoming a better person from it all. Not at all, I thought it was a wonderful first attempt at a novel, but even though the book is listed at fiction, I feel that it was too personal to the author.
Roy, an investment analyst in Boston, narrates this story about the two weeks he spends back home in smalltown Massachusetts.He's there to watch his 17 year old brother Bobby while their parents are away in Ireland. Then there's Jay, who's been teaching for a year now and wants to quit. Jay has quit colleges, switched majors more than once, then gone home to his strongly Catholic family to teach. But for the few days that Roy's back in town they're going to party like they're teenagers again, drinking, fighting, gambling, and ogling women, hang the consequences. I think this is a book that most men will really enjoy, or women if they're into sports, although it's a story everyone can relate to. Roy pines for the time he and his friends were "the kings of innocence" and some of Burns best writing comes out when he describes looking for that special baseball card or catching frogs and snakes down by the river as a kid.
Too bad too, for the tale could have used a loving womans tug, for thoughtful young men, in love with such women (as Roy claims to be to the tune of hammering some fellow she had Roys own consent to see), are often subject to them. And here, at mid-tale Burns story also turns more serious with lost soul Jays gambling debts coming to a boil. Burns also knows that honesty gives depth, and Roys narrative is nothing but, so much so that I didnt care for Roys unapologetic nastiness while staying tuned to his story.
This novel tells a story that pretty much any American in his mid-twenties or older will recognize, and the author succeeds in making the tale seem both personal and universal. I suspect these characters are based on people the author has known personally, and my only objection to how they are portrayed is that sometimes the author seems to miss filling in details that he probably knows about, but that the reader doesnt. The book is quite short, and I often wanted to know more about the characters or hear more details about what happened to them.
The Kings of Innocence, written by Michael Burns, tells the story of 24 year old Roy McGrath coming back to spend 2 weeks in his hometown with his younger brother and childhood friends. The subtle development of the plot was effective and not construed to take away from experience, but yet enhanced the struggles of the boys. The plot, although well constructed and creative, almost took a back seat for what I took away from this book, which was the inner struggle of the characters themselves.
While theyre at the racetrack one day, Mark and Roy discover that Jay owes a huge gambling debt. Mark and Roy have to decide what to do and see how far they will go in the name of friendship.
There was something about innocence that Burns was trying to say, and I do think I missed it. The question, though, is: Did I miss the message because I'm dense and don't pay enough attention, or was Burns' message too obscure for the average reader to catch?
It was a true coming of age story, so real.....reminiscent and crude all the same time!