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Posts Tagged ‘Duck and Cover!’


… That ability for nuanced writing, for creating characters who are at once terrifying and engaging, is one of the things that I particularly respect about Brenda Peterson. The mother in “Duck and Cover” is clearly erratic (she almost reads like a manic/depressive) and frequently abusive, but she’s also got an undeniable charm.

The ability to hold both sides of a character clearly in view is not easy in a book, any more than it’s easy in life. One of the challenges in dealing with my dad’s death was moving beyond the point where I wished he had either been all good dad or all monster to understanding the the reality of him was that he was both.

Her depiction of the father as a husband and father who deals with his wife’s excesses not by curbing them and protecting their children but by escaping into his work is likewise familiar.

A dangerous parent can only survive with a partner who denies the reality of what’s happening, or who actively joins in the abuse. One of the truths that this book holds is that it is not enough to simply be kind and loving if one finds one’s self in an abusive relationship. Good parenting sometimes requires hard actions. Sometimes it means apparently betraying a spouse who might in some ways be a good and wonderful person. It is not simple.

Anyone who has experienced a reality like that will recognize if not details, certainly outlines, in the parents in “Duck and Cover.”

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True Confession: I’ve had Brenda Peterson’s book Duck and Cover! on my Kindle for months–actually, I had the book before I had the Kindle. She gave me a Kindle copy as a “thank you” for tweaking her book cover a bit. So I had the book and for some reason I just never got it opened. Well, I finally did this afternoon as I was waiting for The Boy to drag himself out of the weight room after his “Burst and Explode” or some such thing training–it’s supposed to keep him toned and ready for football practice this summer, which will keep him toned and ready for the football season, which is a mere–what?–ten months away? ish? Around here we take our football very, very seriously, even though we win surprisingly seldom for all the work we put into it.

Anyhow, there I am outside the weight room with only my Kindle for company, and I’m housecleaning on it, taking off the read books, and the moron tests The Boy loaded on and insisted I take (I failed both of them), and wondering what I should read next when there, buried behind the second moron test, was Duck and Cover!

It seemed appropriate after the weekend we just had–snow and freezing rain enough to shut down school for two days–so I opened it up and by the bottom of the first page I was remembering why I loved I Want To Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here On Earth, the first book of Peterson’s that I read. It’s her voice. Her writer’s voice, I mean.

She writes lovely, tight, evocative prose full of hidden shadows and deft humor that grows not out of facile word plays but out of idea plays. And she can capture a character in dialog like nobody’s business. Take, for example, her comment that the Virgin Mary was merely “God’s vehicle” to get Jesus into the world. The speaker then goes on to note that she considers her own red Dart God’s vehicle as well, but she certainly doesn’t get all offended if someone speaks of it in disrespectful terms.

There’s more. There’s much, much more, and I’m only into the third chapter. If you love good writing, read Brenda Peterson. Start with Duck and Cover! You can get it here. I’ll do a full review later, but you should go grab a copy of your own. You really, really should.

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