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Eddie's Bastard

About the Book

Eddie's Bastard

"My life has been made of stories from beginning to end," reflects Billy Mann. "And just when it seems one is ending, a new one begins. The world itself is woven of stories, each man and woman and child of us threading our own brightly colored tale into the bigger story that was already being told as we were born and that will continue to be woven by others long after our threads have run out."

So, too, is the novel, Eddie's Bastard made from stories, beginning to end. And these stories, told and retold to Billy Mann by his irascible grandfather, form the basis of the boy's education as he discovers what it's like to be a man -- and a Mann.

Whether he's hearing the circumstances of his own birth, or reading tidbits of philosophy and pioneer wisdom in his ancestor's diary, Billy is surrounded by tales of adventure, bravery, misfortune, friendship, feuds, greed, and death. For Billy, these stories transform an existence that is often difficult and painful: orphaned at birth, left in a basket on his reclusive grandfather's doorstep; made to fend for himself when his alcoholic guardian was too drunk to care for him; subject to his grandfather's fits of rage and gloom. At a relatively young age, Billy witnesses child abuse, death, poverty, and sex. It is not surprising that he will grow up to be a writer, he himself a teller of stories.

But Billy's world is also filled with wonder and freedom. Guided by his grandfather's unconventional views on caring for children, Billy is left to explore the world around him: the dilapidated farmhouse and its overgrown yard, the fields and farms beyond it, the town of Mannville, where his grandfather seldom ventures. Through his own experiences, Billy learns many of life's lessons. But it is his grandfather's perspective, his certainty that the Mann family is both indomitable and tragic, which most informs Billy's coming-of-age. Billy's awareness of his legacy gives him the courage to stand up to the school bully, to teach himself to drive a motorcycle, to take on his friend Annie's wretched father, and to remain her friend, even through the most strenuous of times.

The details of life take on a larger meaning when they are framed as stories. It is easier to accept, if not understand, life's hardships when they are viewed through the prism of a story. It becomes easier to explain one's own choices when they are presented in the form of a story. Without stories, Billy Mann might have been somewhat less optimistic about the path his own life has taken. But what else do the stories offer? For Billy and for his grandfather, they are a way of keeping the Mann family alive. For, as his grandfather's life aptly demonstrates, money and fortune are fleeting. But families -- and the history they create -- endure forever.

Eddie's Bastard
by William Kowalski

  • Publication Date: September 19, 2000
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0061098256
  • ISBN-13: 9780061098253