Friday, December 25, 2009

Book Review: "Amateur Barbarians" by Richard Cohen

Middle school principal Teddy Hastings is in the midst of a midlife crisis. His brother recently died, he's battling his own health issues, his older daughter has escaped to Asia and he may be having a minor emotional meltdown. And there's this little issue of being in prison.

Oren Pierce has always been a drifter, moving from major to major in college, from relationship to relationship, place to place. Suddenly he's found himself as co-acting principal and on the verge of a challenging relationship, and he can't figure out if he wants either one.

Teddy and Oren's stories, along with the ripples they make in the lives of their family and friends, are the backbone of Richard Cohen's Amateur Barbarians. Many of us have found ourselves sharing at least one trait with either Teddy or Oren (hopefully not the jail thing), so I think their stories are fairly easy to digest and understand.

Cohen was at his best when writing about Teddy. I don't know if it was his blustery nature or the situations he found himself in, but I found myself caring much more about him than Oren (and Teddy was the one in more trouble). Oren's lack of ambition and backbone frustrated me after a while. I thought this was a good book, but not a great one.

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