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Maxine Chernoff:
A Boy in Winter
Maxine Chernoff
  A Boy in Winter  
Maxine Chernoff    
essay

excerpt



  Maxine Chernoff's latest novel, A Boy in Winter, examines the aftermath of tragedy and its various effects on those involved. Nancy Horvath is a single mother raising her eleven-year-old son, Danny. Danny, whose smug and absent father left the family a decade earlier, is a bright, thoughtful, sensitive boy, far more aware and perceptive than many of the adults in his life realize. When the two move to a new house in their Chicago suburb, their lives are to be forever altered as a result of a friendship they develop with their next door neighbors. Frank Nova and his ten-year-old Eddie instantly take a vested interest in their new neighbors, and hyperactive, obstreperous Eddie becomes a regular fixture in the Horvath home. Trapped in a loveless marriage, to a woman for whom illusions of happiness are preferable to the real thing, Frank soon turns to Nancy for warmth, affection and romance.

As their affair progresses, so do Frank's efforts to be a perfect, involved father to his son--and a surrogate figure to Danny. The turning point is a weekend-long hunting trip the three take, one that leaves Danny sickened by the act of hunting and contemplative about the fragility of life. Furthering his efforts and trying desperately to ignore the failure of the venture, Frank buys Eddie his very own compound bow--the weapon with which, to Danny's horror, Frank had snuffed out the life of a deer on their trip.

Their world changes forever one day when Eddie brings his new weapon to Danny's house after school, while Nancy is at work. Eddie begins to play with the weapon, pointing it at Danny's dog and then at the boy himself, despite his friend's efforts to make him stop. He goes too far and in panic Danny grabs the bow from him, accidentally shooting Eddie through the heart.

This beautifully-crafted novel is told through varying perspectives, Nancy's, Danny's, and finally Frank's. Each character struggles in their very personal ways to come to terms with and make sense of the tragedy, and the long, daunting, healing process that lies ahead. The most shocking reaction is Frank's, who rationalizes his pain by abducting Danny several months after the accident, and squirreling him away in a cabin in the woods. Frank grows emptier and sadder in the setting that will become the novel's tense climax, replete with SWAT teams, reporters, and horrified witnesses.

In this issue of Bold Type, read an interview with Maxine Chernoff and an excerpt from A Boy in Winter.

 
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  Photo of Maxine Chernoff copyright © Paul Hoover

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