Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
In this compulsively readable first novel, 17-year-old "Andy" Tietam Brown, named after the Civil War battle at Antietam, goes through several kinds of hell and lives to tell the tale. Andy, a newcomer to his upstate New York town, is somewhat handicapped by a nonfunctioning left hand and a missing ear. But though he is the target of steroid-fed, football-playing bullies, he is lucky enough to become romantically involved with Terri, the Christian cheerleader beauty. As Andy recalls sordid and violent events from his past in foster homes and juvenile detention centers, we learn that his real father, a bizarre character with no visible means of support and perverse sexual habits, has only recently reunited with his son and brought him home. After his father intervenes on Andy's behalf with a demented history teacher, things start to look up, but happiness and domestic tranquility are not part of the landscape Foley envisions. Foley, a former pro wrestler and the author of several nonfiction works, knows how to spin an intriguing if somewhat offbeat tale. Recommended for popular fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/03.]-Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
If Freud and de Sade were to pen story lines for WWF Smackdown! the result might be this lurid coming-of-age novel by Foley, a former professional wrestler and author of two bestselling memoirs, Foley Is Good and Have a Nice Day! Andy Brown is an archetypal high school underdog, a misshapen, motherless misfit tormented by the football coach and tantalized by the minister's daughter. At home, dad Tietam is an alcoholic bodybuilding enthusiast who does nude calisthenics in the living room in between noisy bedroom sessions with a parade of three-night-stand women; he parents Andy by offering him beer, condoms and crude sexual pointers. As Andy learns about manhood from dubious role models, first-time novelist Foley finds adult fiction a truly unrefereed arena where the wrestling sensibility can break free of PG-13 constraints. The boisterous narrative fluctuates between bawdy picaresque and episodes of berserk violence full of smashed teeth, crushed tracheas, gouged eyes, sudden, tables-turning castration and heterosexual, homosexual, pedophilic and incestuous varieties of rape. The cartoonish characters are Oedipal tag teams battling for Andy's soul; every man is a bully or a pervert, every woman a sentimentalized madonna/whore duality ruined by male predation. Foley is not much of a stylist. He mingles villainous trash-talk dialogue and stilted sexual banter ("I'll admit right now to being somewhat distracted by the pleasant tingling in my penile area") in a Rabelaisian tone as self-conscious and overbearing as a large man in tiny trunks. But readers in the mood for vigorous pulp may enjoy this steroid-fueled brawl. (July 8) Forecast: The fans who catapulted Foley to the top of nonfiction bestseller lists may not be quite as eager to sample his fiction, but there should be enough crossover to keep sales lively. Readers unaware of Foley's WWF fame may enjoy him as a novelist in the vein of Chuck Palahniuk. 150,000 first printing; 13-city author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Telling a story as a memoir can create problems. If the writing is bad, is it the character's fault or the author's? If it's intentionally bad--using cliches like donut sprinkles and editorializing every action--what's the point? One-eared, one-handed Antietam Brown V--Andy--has suffered through a life resembling the unabridged Grimms' fairy tales, filmed by the Fox network. When the father he's never known, Antietam Brown IV--Tietam--whisks him home from juvenile detention on his seventeenth birthday, Andy wants normalcy so much he's almost willing to overlook his father's bizarre behavior (Tietam is a lothario who interrupts his sex sessions to brag, chug beer, and exercise naked in the living room). Andy starts high school, finds a girlfriend, and searches for information about his parents' past. But even this modest peace is dashed by steroid-deformed jocks, a tyrannical teacher, a hypocritical reverend, Tietam, and Andy's own insecurity and simmering anger. Foley, who wrestled as "Mankind," has written a frustrating novel. The oddball protagonist and his outlandish father are undeniably interesting, but supporting characters are two-dimensional or lack understandable motivation (the football coach/teacher is evil incarnate; Andy's girlfriend is gorgeous, virginal, and Christian--yet hell-bent on deflowering the terrified Andy). And the narration includes lines like "he was about to prove his manhood by smacking a small child" --which distance readers by denying them the chance to make their own judgments. There's talent here, but it's hard to tell how much; yet with the large print run and publicity, expect demand. --Keir Graff
Kirkus Book Review
An engaging protagonist and a lively style aren't enough to salvage this over-the-top first novel by the former champion pro wrestler (Foley Is Good, not reviewed; etc.). Narrator Antietam ("Andy") Brown V is a 17-year-old high-school freshman reconnecting with his absentee father and experiencing a delayed adolescence following "a lifetime of foster homes, orphanages, and juvenile detention centers." Antietam IV isn't your ordinary dad: he exercises naked, encourages Andy to follow in his Herculean sexual footsteps, and plots revenge on neighbors whose outdoor holiday decorations outshine his own. Andy has emulated his father's ferocity, having killed two people before age 14 (as vivid flashbacks gradually reveal). And he has sexual designs on gorgeous born-again Christian cheerleader Terri, plans that are repeatedly foiled by abuse from jocklike fellow students and their foulmouthed idol (and, for reasons that aren't exactly clear, Andy's sworn enemy), history teacher-football coach Hanrahan. Foley gets good seriocomic mileage out of Andy's addled relationship with his volatile, interfering father, who's initially presented as a broadly comic character, then shown to be a psychotic train wreck of a man with a tangled history of loss, grief, and vengeful breakdowns. And one admires such charmingly weird images as that of "Terri's bare breasts springing from her bra, like a wire snake from a salted peanut can." But Foley doesn't know when to tune it down. Tietam Brown continuously spasms into episodes of cartoonish, sickening violence: we understand that it's a legacy Andy wants to disclaim, but the point is made repeatedly, and a fairly absurd climactic father-son confrontation imitates the patented method of John Irving, with virtually none of the latter's narrative drive and sheer reader-friendliness. A body slam of a book that's nowhere near as powerful and decisive as it means to be. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.