Hank Fitzpatrick’s life is what you might expect from a man-child stumbling his way through and beyond adolescence in the late 1980s in small town Indiana: hypersexual, drunk, stoned, prone to fits of spontaneous masturbation, occasionally Catholic, and accidentally well-intentioned. His life is in perpetual conflict as he confuses sex for love, heartache for passion, desperation for honesty, and abuse for affection.
Caught in the crossfire of raging hormones, bad decisions and family tragedy, Hank is just a boy not yet ready to be a man. And like many boys growing up, Hank is desperate to impress his father. The impossibly perfect patriarch of the family, John Fitzpatrick decides at age forty-two he wants to have a vasectomy reversal. Is Hank ready to be a brother again at age seventeen? What about his mother’s narcotics and gimlet-soaked uterus? A child will come of this, but not without consequences.
Laura is Hank’s first true love. From their stolen nights together as high-school sweethearts to their final encounter as twentysomething adults, they never figure out how to stop hurting one another. Beth, the girl who loves Hank unconditionally, can only wait for so long before longing turns to regret. But everything will be okay as long as Hank’s best friend Hatch is there to help him exorcise his demons with a half-gallon of bourbon and a bottle of cough syrup.
Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer is more than just a tribute to the last uninhibited pre-9/11, pre-Facebook generation. It’s a comedy. It’s a tragedy. It’s a love story. It’s a subversive yet empathetic, warts-and-all portrait rooted in real-life that kids will read behind their parents’ backs. And if somewhere along the way we can all share in the redemptive power of a belly dancer’s love…well, that’s okay, too.
I liked it very much!
I wasn’t expecting much to happen when I started this book. After reading the description I thought it wasn’t my type, but I give it a try and I don’t regret it. Hank Fitzpatrick is a troubled kid who had a tough childhood, so he manages to get through that by throwing a tantrum at everybody. Since he was five he has been molested by his godfather Mitch, (who happened to be his father's best friend), but he doesn't let anyone know. At first I was annoyed with Hank, because he was so out of place, so rude with his parents and he was acting like a wild teenager. So not my crowd... but he grew on me bit by bit.
I was excited to learn more about late 80's, the period when my parents were also young and restless, so I could imagine them better. I'm sure they weren't as rebel as Hank, because they had to support themselves and go to school, but I want to believe they had fun and enjoyed their youth at the same time.
Brian Sweany did a good job in the way he created the story, he understood very well his main character and we, as readers, were able connect with him after we found out his background and the reason of his behaving. My mood changed many times, I was sad and terrified of what was happening, I was angry, or full of hope. From my perspective “Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer” has it all: action, drama and romance.
I was happy to see Hank becoming a man, a grown-up who is capable of taking care of himself and able to decide what he really want from his life. He is now ready to take responsibility of his past actions and to handle them well. It is true he has done a lot of mistakes, but it was the only way he could evolve into a great person like his father John. His death was an important factor for him to become stronger, we can call it a necessary evil, but I was hurt when it happened. Then I saw that I made a connection with these characters, more than I was expecting.
I cherished Laura and Hank's relationship, the kind we all had into our lives at some time, the one that brought us happiness, as well as hard times, but in the end my favorite was Beth, the girl who was always there when Hank needed someone close. And what can I say about Hatch - he is the perfect best friend we all wish to have.
All in all, I really liked this book, it was a gulp of fresh air for me and a model of how the reality we all try to escape from can make a good story.
I gave it only 4 butterflies out of 5, because I got lost a few times in the details of the sports, since I'm not familiar with USA's teams.
I press my cheek against his. He’s still warm. I wrap my right arm around his head and run my fingers through his hair. I raise my left hand to his lips. “Hey Hank,” Dad said to me before I went back to school on Sunday night, “you think you’ll ever be too old to get a hug and kiss from your Dad?” I don’t even remember what I said. Did I let him hug me? Did I let him kiss me? Did I tell him I loved him? Why wasn’t I at least there on the other side of the phone to say, “Yes, Dad, I’d love to go to the Stanford game with you!”
“Where they taking Dad?”
“That’s his rocket ship to heaven.”
“Can we go?”
Jack smiles. “Cool!”
Some love can be idiotic, bumbling even, and still endure. But Laura and I lost the right to be stupid years ago. The saddest of human journeys is taken by shattered hearts dusting off old love. There is no eternal innocence for me and Laura to cling to. John Keats can take his Grecian urn and shove it straight up his ass. Truth is not beauty. Truth comes at the expense of beauty.
“You and the Tomster?”
“Be nice. Tom’s a good guy.”
“Once you get past the comb-over and the black spandex shorts you mean?”
“I said be nice.”
“Oh, I’ll admit Tom’s growing on me.”
“Like a fungus.”
Note: I received an ARC copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, as part of the blog tour.
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