After I had read the first 20 or so pages of this book, I thought I might have to put it down and not read the rest. There is a scene of such quiet violence inside an otherwise placid domestic setting that I could not bear to read it. But I did continue, at first through slightly squinting eyes (not to be caught off-guard again), and quickly found that I couldn't put the book down. One might say that 'nothing happens' (as I've read earlier here), but I'd argue that everything happens. We watch as the author carefully and quietly dessimates an entire personality before our eyes. She never releases the tension, from scene to scene (I had much trouble sleeping at night after reading this -- a warning to other bedtime readers), and I couldn't stop turning the pages. I did have a little trouble with some of her characters who are slipped in but never developed: the teacher, Mr. Roche, is a complete mystery to me (what did he want with John? What was that all about?). The gang who threatens John disappears as if they never existed, despite the fact that he does not complete the task they set for him. The author always comes back to this troubled triumverate of a family (calling them dysfunctional does not even begin to describe the destructive forces inside them). I wish I knew someone who's read the book so that we can analyze it to death. The parents seem to love the boy genuinely, and yet they also seem to fear him, and to infantalize him. The broken aspects of their marriage, and the psychological violence that springs from it, has a profound affect on the boy which they seem never to realize (until, perhaps, the end, and even then it's hard to tell if they really do see, or if they've made a pact to ignore it). The reader watches the boy's personality slowly break, but it's done with such fierce tenderness -- the contradictions in this writing are, I think, profound. And to call the ending 'redemptive' is, to me, inaccurate. I felt relief to find them back in the place where they began, and yet the dysfunctions remain. One wonders who John Egan will grow up to be; there is no real healing here, only an attempt to be loved again. That paradox kept me awake late into the night after I finished this. A tour de force, I think, despite some quibbling flaws.