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The Death of FernieThe Death of Fernie

The Best Little Book Ever Written About Real Little Boys in the 1950s

Daniel Altieri

Narrated by Clay Lomakayu

Approximately 4 hours

Unabridged


Downloadable edition:

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Book published by Buchanan and Li


In The Death of Fernie: The Best Little Book Ever Written About Real Little Boys in the 1950's, Daniel Altieri, the internationally acclaimed author of historical novels on China, has turned his attention to a very different world — an East Coast childhood of the Eisenhower era. It's not a children's story; rather, it's a free-spirited tale with special resonance for the post-war generation, who grew up in that time of imagination and awakening. It's written mainly from the point of view of the boys, preadolescents in the scary post-grammar-school world. A tale of bullies and abuse, of rich flights of imagination and reflection, when phones dialed, there were three channels on TV, and flying saucers hovered everywhere.

It's 1958 in rural Connecticut, and three boys between 10 and 11 years old—Tommy (from a stable, "normal" family) Jose (Hispanic, Catholic), and Jimmy (underfed child of a poor single alcoholic mother, has a severely retarded sister)—have been pals since first grade. But it's September, and the safe cozy innocence of elementary school is behind them. Now they must enter the scary new world of junior high school. In their small New England mill town, every kid from whatever side of the tracks goes to this same big school: kids from green-lawned houses where mothers put clear plastic on the lampshades and carpets, kids from houses where dilapidated sofas and car parts clutter the sagging porches and sumac-overgrown yards—it doesn't matter; they all get tossed together in a survival-of-the-fittest way. It's a hard time for our three pals. And it's about to get harder.

At Lincoln Junior High they encounter the other side of life: Here are the poor kids of South Meriden's shaggy woods and sagging porches. One in particular—a guy named Fernie, who smokes, shaves and drives, and is only waiting for his sixteenth birthday so he can drop out of school, troubled child of a violent father who partners with an older brother in a ramshackle family auto-repair business—sets his sights on the three younger boys, Tommy especially, bullying him almost daily. Soon the three plan hooky days around Fernie's sporadic school attendance. But they encounter Fernie at school often. They hear him brag about "popping off" 22-calibre shells with a hammer on the rocks by the river, and they hear tall tales of sexual bravado. And they witness a scene that they are too young to fully process but which leaves a powerful impression.

There is another part to this story—reckless carefree boyhood forays, endless summer days of mountain climbs, woods-trekking, snake-catching and the discovery of a huge boulder that protrudes like a nose from the cliffs of Meriden mountain, beneath the crenelated walls of Castle Craig. Their days at school are now full of thoughts about this rock—an obsession, which, like Fernie, also commands their time and dreams....

Daniel Altieri is the coauthor, with Eleanor Cooney, of several international best sellers: The Court of the Lion, Iron Empress, and Shangri-La: The Return to the World of Lost Horizon.





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