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The Boys, or, Waiting for the Electrician's Daughter Paperback – Sep 1 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Gaspereau Press; 1st Edition edition (Sept. 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554470110
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554470112
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #236,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“Terpstra offers no facile answers, but in his scrupulous description of the workings of the household, one that revolves around the constant care and comfort of the three boys in wheelchairs, he challenges our habitual ways of viewing terminal disease…. ‘It’s better this way’ is the predictable refrain, but now Terpstra has succeeded in making us feel the speciousness of the words. We have grown attached to the boys, (who are genuinely funny), and the sorrow of their passing is forcefully evoked.” Erik Rutherford, Quill & Quire

“…as much as anything, the book is what all writing that rises to the call of literature is – a sputtering, soaring, aching, confused and triumphant attempt to understand the operating instructions on how to be a human being.” Jeff Mahoney, The Hamilton Spectator

“…Terpstra creates a terse, tense, touching compression – very much the way he sees the brothers turning events over and over again in their conversation, like jewels. ‘The cut is always the same but the light it refracts may change.’” Keith Garebian, Globe & Mail

About the Author

John Terpstra is the author of many books of poetry, most recently Brilliant Falls (2013). He is also the author of three prose projects: Falling Into Place; The Boys, or, Waiting for the Electrician’s Daughter (shortlisted for the Charles Taylor Prize); and Skin Boat. Terpstra lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. C. Schaap on Aug. 13 2010
Format: Paperback
The Boys is not an easy read, but then the lives it documents weren't at all easy either. John Terpstra, a poet and a carpenter by trade, chronicles the life of a New Jersey family, his wife's family, in this uniquely personal memoir of suffering and death--and life.

His wife, Mary Ann, had three brothers, all three afflicted with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. All three lived energetically right up until their deaths in their late teens, and those deaths, astoundingly, came within six months. Life in Mary Ann's house was not at all easy.

A woman I once met lost her husband in a construction accident. She had, at the time, a score of little kids. On the day of the funeral, the house full of mourners and food, her kids, she says, were almost out of control, begging for sweets. "Oh, go ahead and have more chocolate cake," she told them after too many bouts of begging. "How often does your father die?" That line came up from her soul in a fashion that black humor does with most of us, like a salty blessing that doesn't so much disguise pain as season it.

The Boys has some wonderful black humor, but not too much, because too much would poison the telling with sentimentality, a silliness this beautiful book evenly avoids. Terpstra's own poetics grace the telling, sentence by sentence, page by page. There are no page numbers; the story is told in 213 chapters, some of them no more than a sentence long. Some really sharp reviewer could explain the eccentric story-telling, but I can't. All I know is that it works. You don't breathe easily through this memoir. Life itself is just too precious.

In a number of ways, John Terpstra was faced with an impossible task in writing this book. Here's just one.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Boys continue to inspire others April 25 2006
By Rosemary Vandenakker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Through reflective prose, John Terpstra records the impact his brothers-in-law had on his life and the lives of everyone who knew them. The Boys creatively reflects on the final years that three brothers, all inflicted with muscular dystrophy, lived. The reader is compelled to view their lives as the author does - lives that influenced and impacted many other lives, and continues to live on within others. Rather than viewing their lives as a burden, the author shares his personal story of how the lives of all three brothers have enriched his life, the life of his wife, and through The Boys, continue to enrich the life of each reader. The Boys is a must read for anyone whose lives or deals with chronic or terminally ill patients. While remaining completely frank and open, the author's words are a source of encouragement as he challenges his readers not to view a shortened or handicapped life as a waste. The reader is challenged to recognize that the "simple fact of your created being is sufficient for all time" to justify your existence here on earth. "[The boys] proved it by being themselves and having no `future.'"
Extraordinary Aug. 13 2010
By J. C. Schaap - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Boys is not an easy read, but then the lives it documents weren't at all easy either. John Terpstra, a poet and a carpenter by trade, chronicles the life of a New Jersey family, his wife's family, in this uniquely personal memoir of suffering and death--and life.

His wife, Mary Ann, had three brothers, all three afflicted with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. All three lived energetically right up until their deaths in their late teens, and those deaths, astoundingly, came within six months. Life in Mary Ann's house was not at all easy.

A woman I once met lost her husband in a construction accident. She had, at the time, a score of little kids. On the day of the funeral, the house full of mourners and food, her kids, she says, were almost out of control, begging for sweets. "Oh, go ahead and have more chocolate cake," she told them after too many bouts of begging. "How often does your father die?" That line came up from her soul in a fashion that black humor does with most of us, like a salty blessing that doesn't so much disguise pain as season it.

The Boys has some wonderful black humor, but not too much, because too much would poison the telling with sentimentality, a silliness this beautiful book evenly avoids. Terpstra's own poetics grace the telling, sentence by sentence, page by page. There are no page numbers; the story is told in 213 chapters, some of them no more than a sentence long. Some really sharp reviewer could explain the eccentric story-telling, but I can't. All I know is that it works. You don't breathe easily through this memoir. Life itself is just too precious.

In a number of ways, John Terpstra was faced with an impossible task in writing this book. Here's just one. Effective story-telling requires that he "show" us what he wants us to feel, not just tell us. Yet, almost every last action required in the treatment of his three brothers-in-law in those last years, as well as the boys' own gutsy reactions to that treatment, are painfully ugly. What their father went through, what their mother went through, what their sister went through cannot be imagined. Neither he nor anyone else, finally, can do that job. Imagine a house where three perfectly normal teenage boys lie dying, arms and legs rendered useless, purposeless, by a genetic killer that's taking all of them at one time. It is beyond imagination. But it's not imagined. It's true.

What John Terpstra struggles to show us is that despite the immense horror and the unimaginable suffering, even in despair, even in grief, even in anger against God, life in that New Jersey bungaloe was somehow good. I'm not sure any writer can do that job convincingly.

We finally believe John Terpstra only because the intimacy he opens makes it clear and vivid that he<em> knows</em>. We believe him not because of the story itself but because what he creates in this story has the authenticity of truth. We believe that somehow those horrible final years of his brothers' lives were good because we believe him and in him.

Why this family? Terpstra is believer, as he testifies in another book of his, not so much by choice. Why do good people suffer so horrendously in a world filled with God's unfailing love? Terpstra asks those cosmic questions we all do and answers them no better than any of us have ever done. Some answers will only come beyond the grave.

All he wants us to know, finally, is that he knows--from the heart of the family story--that those boys' lives, taken as early as they were, filled with incomprehensible pain and suffering on all sides, were still good. He wants us to know that, unbelievably, those years were among the best of times.

On the back of his tombstone, an old friend of mine wanted--and got--this line: "It was all marvelous. I don't regret a minute of it. Even the pain and hunger were sweet to have. It was life, not death, and all moments of life are very precious."

There's more death in this book than most of us care to encounter anywhere, but what Terpstra makes very clear is there's also abundant life.

I don't know exactly how he does it, but I believe him.

The Boys is a story you'll never forget.
My life April 2 2009
By JNKCMD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is very rare that someone is able to accurately capture life with a handicapped relative without too much saccharine filled language or despondency. Terpstra managed to portray what my life was like for 9 years with the same matter of fact, frank attitude that I used to approach it (an attitude which seems strange and callous to many who have not been there). This book is very real. If you have lived this life in some way you will appreciate the honesty of the book. If you know someone who has been in the same situation or is actively living it you should read the book to better understand what it is like.
Four Stars June 15 2015
By Adrian Roberts - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great!


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