Eddie's Bastard

Eddie's Bastard

4.06 (1,204 ratings by Goodreads)
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"Eddie's Bastard" is William Amos Mann IV, known as Billy -- the son of a heroic pilot killed in Vietnam and an unknown woman. The last in a line of proud, individualistic Irish-American men, Billy is discovered in a basket at the door of the dilapidated mansion where his bitter, hard-drinking grandfather, Thomas Mann, has exiled himself. Astonished and moved by the arrival of his unexpected progeny, Thomas sets out to raise the boy himself -- on a diet of love, fried baloney, and the fascinating lore of their shared heritage. Listening to his sets out to capture the stories on paper. He is a Mann, Grandpa reminds him daily, and thus destined for greatness.

Through the tales of his ancestors, his own experiences, and the unforgettable characters who enhance and enliven his adolescence, Billy learns of bravery and cowardice, of life and death, of the heart's capacity for love and for unremitting hatred, eventually grasping the meaning of family and history and their power to shape destiny. Steeped in imagery and threaded with lyricism, Eddie's Bastard is a novel of discovery, of a young man's emergence into the world, and the endless possibilities it offers.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 367 pages
  • 133 x 204 x 25.4mm | 285.76g
  • HarperPerennial
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • 0061098256
  • 9780061098253
  • 498,111

Review quote

"A grand debut. " Eddie's Bastard is a beguiling blend of narrative con brio, human-heartedness, and zany surprises."-- Gail Godwin, "New York Times bestselling author of "Evensong"Billy Mann is an illegitimate orphan known around Mannville as 'Eddie's Bastard.' This first novel tells the story of two relationships: between Billy and the reclusive grandfather who reared him and Billy and his young friend Annie, a victim of parental abuse. These relationships are troubled in the extreme, but love can abound even in the most imperfect settings. The theme of family gives form to the novel. Stories of his father, Eddie (dead before his birth), inspire Billy like ghostly encouragement, and excerpts from his great-grandfather's diary appear like a refrain, offering guidance. Kowalski writes in a style so natural that the reader is only aware of the story it transports. Surreal moments that recall John Irving include a man's severed tongue inside a snowball and a description of the family's financial ruin by the 'Fiasco of Ostriches.' Highly recommended for all collections."-- Carol J. Bissett, "Library Journal, July 1999"In his ambitious, bittersweet first novel, Kowalski explores the world of a boy growing up in a small upstate New York town called Mannsville who must find his place in the shadows of nearly mythic ancestors...[T]he novel is ultimately an absorbing, redemptive exploration of a young man's search for himself, wresting an identity out of generations ofsecrets."-- "Publishers Weekly "Entertaining."-- "Kirkus Reviews "Billy Mann wasn't always known as Billy; his original moniker was "Eddie's Bastard, " or so read the sign affixed to the basket in which he was delivered as an infant to his grandpa's doorstep. Billy's grandpa is overjoyed to find that his son Eddie, who was recently killed in Vietnam, fathered an illegitimate son before he died, for now the Mann family line will live on after his own death. The perpetuation of the Mann lineage is sacred to Billy's grandpa; it is his belief that a person inherits not only the blood of his forebears but their spirits as well. Billy is raised by his grandpa in a secluded, dilapidated house. When sober, Billy's grandpa is a wonderful caregiver, but mostly, he is a reclusive alcoholic. Having lost the family fortune through a foolish investment made in his youth, Grandpa believes that he ruined the Mann family name and cannot forgive himself. Billy and his grandpa are the sole living Manns, yet the presence of Manns past loom large in their lives. The ghost of Billy's great-great grandfather inhabits their house, and the ghost of Eddie, Billy's father, appears to Billy in times of need. Another prominent presence in Billy's life is his neighbor, Annie, with whom he falls in love and plots to save from her terrifying, abusive father. A thoughtful meditation on the power of family bonds, this impressive debut novel showcases the abundant storytelling abilities of its 28-year-old author, highlighting him as atalent to watch."-- "Booklist Seldom does a first novel come along that is as elegantly written and tells such a charming and engrossing story as "Eddie's Bastard. William Kowalski has created a touching tale with characters so real and endearing that you rejoice in their victories over life and suffer with them in their defeats.It's a coming-of-age story of a family and its past as well as its present, its triumphs and travails. Most of all, though, it's the story of William Amos Mann IV, who truly is Eddie's illegitimate son, and how he becomes both a man and a Mann. Kowalski tells Billy's, and the rest of the Manns', story in polished and poignant prose that offers a talent beyond his 28 years.Abandoned at birth by a mother he doesn't know, Billy is raised by his eccentric and often-drunk grandfather, Thomas. Thomas is a benign drunk who spends his days with Billy holed up in the old Mann house, which has aged past its former splendor. The Manns were once rulers of the roost in Mannville, the family's namesake town on the banks of Lake Erie.When Grandpa's son and town hero Eddie was shot down in his fighter plane during the Vietnam War, Grandpa thinks the Mann name will die with him. So he is more than happy to raise the infant he finds on his doorstep in 1970, since, "There was no doubt in Grandpa's mind about whose son I was. I had the same eyes as my father, and Grandpa recognized them immediately.''Grandpa is a born storyteller and the Mann history is rich with tales, mostly centering on Willie, who returns from the Civil War a reluctant hero, then finds a long-buried treasure,making the family wealthy. Willie also leaves a diary that provides answers to many questions better left unasked.As Billy grows up sequestered in the Mann mansion with Grandpa, he learns independence and develops an abiding hunger for information about his father and mother. He also decides early on that he wants to be a writer, and even writes a short story that is included in the book.It's this aspect of the story that is drawing comparisons with John Irving. But not so fast. Where Irving has a propensity for going over the top with his writing, using stories within stories to offer hyperbole and grandiosity, Kowalski keeps his - and Billy's - emotions reined in, even when he talks of ghosts, reincarnation and things that go bump in the night.Billy's world is filled with a discordant array of characters. There's his lifelong love, Annie Simpson, who, with Billy's help, escapes a miserable and terrifying childhood. There's Dr. Connor, the old family friend who dotes on Billy and who has a secret of his own. There's Elsie, who has a thing for young men, and teaches Billy the facts of life. He's befriended by the kindly Shumacher family, with whom he stays while Grandpa is recovering from an injury."Eddie's Bastard is a rich kaleidoscope of a tale that draws the reader in from the get-go and refuses to relinquish its hold. Most of all, it's a family's story told with warmth and humility, rich with imagination and grit. -- "Denver Post For readers who enjoy the eccentric and rambling family narratives of John Irving, "Eddie's Bastard by William Kowalski (HarperCollins, $24, 367pages), is a first novel that deserves attention. Kowalski lacks Irving's comic timing and fanciful imagination, but he has a sharp eye for the details of family life in rural America and a good understanding of character.The bastard of the title is young Billy Mann, whose father dies in Vietnam and whose mother is unknown. With the help of the grandfather who raises him, Billy tries to reconstruct a family history that is as tangled as it is bizarre. But what he discovers about his past is not nearly as important as the guidance that he receives each day from the grandfather who teaches him how to love.-- "Baltimore Sun Exhuberant...Kowalski is a talented stylist.-- "New York Times Book Review "There's a honeyed glow to "Eddie's Bastard, which...avoids sentimentality in this tale about the truth and consequences of knowing who you are." "-- Los Angeles Times "Vividly impressionistic prose.""-- London Times "The 28 year-old author gives his first novel an appealing Dickensian flavor.""-- People "A rich and readable family history, filled with tales of wars, stolen treasure, hauntings, family fiascoes and, most of all, a young man's self-discovery...Kowalski is a gifted storyteller who deserves afollowing.""-- San Antonio Express News "A mesmerizing debut...skillfully crafted and highly imaginative.""-- Tulsa World "This is a big old-fashioned book in every possible way...often funny, at times aching--a fine beginning to launch a novelist.""-- Brooklyn Bridge Magazine "A notable literary debut...Here's one satisfying novel by a writer of great promise.""-- America Magazine
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Rating details

1,204 ratings
4.06 out of 5 stars
5 33% (401)
4 44% (532)
3 19% (229)
2 3% (38)
1 0% (4)
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