December 14, 2011

Review: Waiting for Pops - John Riffice

Summary from Amazon: Waiting for Pops, a mainstream biographical novel, is a tale of a young boy's appalling mistreatment at the hands of his alcoholic mother. It is a tale of spousal secrets and parental lies. It is a tale of love, friendship, and, above all else, betrayal. Pops is seen through the eyes of an innocent boy growing steadily into manhood in 1950's Chicago. Johnny Ryba tells his story and transports the reader into his small, blue-collar existence - his mother's alcoholism, his much-loved father's sudden death in an auto accident, his beloved little sister's autism. Later, as the reader accompanies Johnny into his teen years, they experience as well the painful heartbreak of his first love and loss.

Johnny Riba spends his early life waiting for Pops. But Pops never comes.
We see his childhood more vividly than anything, since that's when mostly everything happens. His mother starts "geting a bit happy", a bit drunk. And everytime more and more, until it's unbearable.
We watch Johnny deal with the early death of his father and how he had to accept his sister, with autism, going to a government sanatorium because they couldn't afford someone to care for her - and that's all that was available "at that time".
We see his first love, his second love, his first girlfriend and some of his adult life.
There's more to life than Johnny can see and eventually he'll understand all the unanswered questions of his childhood - why were they even unanswered before.
John  Riffice can tell a story, or I wouldn't have finished this book. It is long and it is about the lilfe of a simple boy. Not the kind of book I usually love, but troubled families is something I like to hear about - makes mine seem less troubled.
While the book develops slowly, since most of it speaks about Johnny's early years, its not boring, Johnny, as a child, knows more than some adults and has interesing insights.
Rose, Johnny's little sister is charming, autistic but probably the most aware person on the book. She's the one who knows of the things going on that others choose to ignore, to forget.

I was slightly disapointed by the enormous focus on the childhood and none on his grown life, what he grew to be. We know some about his kids, wife and job, but not nearly enough. We also never get to see more about the neighbours, which he mentions, but my gossipy instincts were asking for more.
If you love biographical works, ones with struggle and pain, but also love and hope, this is your book.

You can buy it on Amazon here.