Michael, Jan. City Boy.
Clarion see Houghton Mifflin 2009 186p 16.00 978-0-547223-10-0 ms
Sam loses his parents to AIDS in this novel about acceptance which is set in Malawi. When Sam’s aunt brings him home, he must learn to accept new surroundings, new family members, and a new life, without his parents. The reader is reminded of Sylvia Plath’s, The Bell Jar, in Jan Michael’s, City Boy, due to the theme. In both novels, children must accept the death of a loved one. There are pain, confusion and fear in both novels as well. That is where the similarity disappears. Author, Jan Michael, has chosen Africa as the setting, a poor but proud family in the supportive role and a plot that is compelling. City dweller, Sam, is taken in by his aunt after his parents die of AIDS. His only mementos are a photograph of his parents and his blue sneakers. Both symbolize the life which he must leave as well as his new life. The “Disease”, as AIDS is called, has left Aunt Mercy single, with a family of 4 to support. She has dedicated her life to the children, even refusing to marry the carpenter because she knows that to do so might spread the “Disease” yet again. Instead, she welcomes Sam, teaches him the value of sharing, the importance of family, and the necessity of looking forward after tragedy. She loves him and patiently waits for him to accept his new surroundings. Throughout the book, we feel Sam’s pain, the pain of loss. The descriptions of Malawi are beautiful. The theme is universal. The vocabulary is rich and authentic. As a cultural study, City Boy presents a unique story in a unique setting that leaves the reader a good deal more knowledgeable about the challenges of rural African life. There is one punctuation error. On page 84, second paragraph, there should be a period after “she would shut up the dog first.” Squaresky, Martha