Twelve-year old Davey has had a rough life, to put it mildly. His mother is neglectful and not very prone to mothering, and his father is mostly absent, though he occasionally shows up to have fun with his kids and then disappears again. Davey’s sister, Jo, has been acting like a mother to Davey since she was seven, and he was just two. But now Jo is a mother herself, at only seventeen, and seems to be following in her own mother’s footsteps, filled with anger and resentment and not much affection.
Although it is never spelled out, Davey seems to be autistic. In any case, he doesn’t interact with the world the way other people do. He tends to retreat into himself and engages in repetitive behaviors. Jo has always been his protector, but now she has her own baby to take care of. Davey does find relief and escape on his bike. He rides for hours and feels like he can think more clearly when he is moving.
Although Jo is already disillusioned by motherhood (perhaps because she has been playing the role of mother since she was 7), Davey adores his new cousin, Dennis, and is surprised to find that he’s quite good at taking care of him. That’s good because when Davey comes over after school, Jo sometimes takes off, much like their own mother did. Davey loves taking care of Dennis so much that he’s beginning to think that maybe someday he will find someone to love and have a baby of his own to take care of…and he’s pretty sure he’ll be a good father.
The chapters alternate between Davey’s perspective, which is a sort of stream-of-consciousness kind of of thing, and a third-person point of view to fill in the details of the story, often looking back at Jo and Davey’s past. I realize that it may sound like a pretty depressing book from the plot description, but Davey is a great narrator. Getting a peek into what and how he’s thinking is fascinating, despite the blatant neglect he suffers from. Ultimately, Davey is optimistic and hopeful about the future, which makes the reader hopeful as well. Lynch accomplishes quite a feat by packing such a full and powerful story into so few pages.