Well, this was an unexpected delight. ‘Of Foster Homes and Flies’ is one of those real treats that comes down the pipe and manages to get you all excited about reading again. Protagonist Denny Newman is a big part of why - a bright, lonely twelve year old with ambition and one hell of a tough situation.
I really fell for this kid. Lutzke absolutely nails the voice - the prose is simple and uncluttered, but the kid is bright enough to be able to communicate his situation clearly and well. There’s a lightness of touch in the writing and characterisation the belies the darkness of the tale itself, taking something that could have either been unbearably bleak, or worse, comically cynical, and instead weaving a tale of genuine tenderness and pathos. Denny’s journey, his quest, and his circumstances are utterly believable, and the tension in the story came very much from my concern for his safety.
Another bear trap with this kind of narrative is mawkish sentimentality. Lutzke deftly avoids this, again mainly through just how brilliantly he draws the lead character. Denny is enough of an adult to understand some of the dangers he’s facing, but still just enough of a child to have that suppleness of mind to not think too deeply about it, to find a way through.
And the whole thing is just beautiful. It’s a touching snapshot of small town blue collar childhood. The relationships Denny has ring utterly true, as do the characters. The book itself is as long as it needs to be and not one word longer, and again, praise is due to Lutzke for not trying to pad it out, instead wisely understanding this was the essence of the tale he wanted to tell.
It’s not spatterpunk, blow your brains out, adrenaline fueled whatever. But if you’re looking for note perfect characterisation, deep rooted realism, and a creeping sense of anxiety and dread, ‘Of Foster Homes and Flies’ is a must read. Excellent work.