Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Mini-Review of "Bonita Avenue" by Peter Buwalda - Family Dysfunction That Would Make Dostoevsky Smile!
This book, "Bonita Avenue," is a brilliantly and artistically written account of a spectacularly dysfunctional family, in the style of the Karamazov family. Sigerius is the patriarch, a brilliant mathematician and college President whose personal and family life is an equation he never quite manages to solve. At one level the story is a picaresque series of adventures and mishaps. At another level it is an examination of how family members can miss meeting one another's needs and how the tangled threads of familial relationships can strangle as they unravel. It is ultimately a tragedy, in large part because the reader has come to care about these quirky members of Sigerius' extended clan.
An explosion at a fireworks factory in the college town where Sigerius presides over an institution to which he hopes to bring acclaim and distinction is depicted on the cover of the book. That explosion changes the landscape - topographically and psychically, and stands as an emblem of the string of explosions that occur within - and between - the book's characters. Along the way, the author explores the power of sex to energize and to destroy.
Mr. Buwalda writes with style and with bravado, never blinking as he recounts both the actions and motivations of Sigerius, his wives, his children and those close to them. The book is a tome, but one that carries weight of meaning as well as of mass.