Kris D’Agonstino’s debut is an example of that rare animal, the funny, smart, well-written novel about family that will even appeal to boys.
There is a short piece on the ReadingGroupGuides website in which the author discusses how much of his book is autobiographical. Here is a relevant excerpt, “The wackiest and thereby most vexing period of my life (so far) was my mid twenties. I found that handful of years, roughly from 23 to 26, and the extended period of post-college floundering around that went with them, to be stranger and far more coming-of-age than my teenage years. Much more so than high school (encapsulated for me by a white suburban upper-middle class bubble) ever was. I knew I wanted to try and express the emotion, the anxiety, the excitement, the antsy-ness, the wonder — and the lurking, unspecified dread — that informed that period.”
Adult/High School–It’s 2006, and 24-year-old underachiever Calvin Moretti is up to his eyeballs in student-loan debt. His film degree hasn’t helped him to land a lucrative dream job, so he’s back under his parents’ roof. And despite the fact that he counts the minutes to the end of his workday as an assistant teacher at a special-needs preschool, his misguided (but hot) supervisor thinks he should consider teaching as a career. Life is uncomfortable in the Moretti household, with a family dynamic reminiscent of the dysfunctional, unintentionally comic Hoovers of Little Miss Sunshine. Cal is putting money aside so he can move out, but only after he budgets for collectible record albums and pot. Dad, a grounded pilot, suffers from myeloma. Despite the fact that doctors say it’s curable, he spends his days wallowing in his bathrobe, toting a concealed pistol. Mom worries about losing the house. Older brother Chip, an insufferable Ivy League graduate, has been keeping the family afloat, a fact he won’t let anyone forget. And Cal’s rebellious sister Elissa, still in high school, confides she’s pregnant and intends to keep the baby. Told in the first person, The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac is sharply funny and full of spot-on observations about what it means to be a responsible adult. Older teens will sympathize with Cal’s struggles as much as they’ll want to throttle him for his self-centered, slacker tendencies. First-time author D’Agostino has an ear for dialogue and the not-too-distant memory of what it’s like to be a conflicted, unmotivated young man.–Paula Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD