Superbly rich and ingenious…
A beautifully executed, nostalgia-churning exploration into the themes of friendship and teenager shenanigans, Henning’s deeply engrossing, all-American boyhood tale traces one night in the lives of a motley crew of teenagers. The story takes place over a 24-hour period in the midst of an icy Minnesota winter during which a rowdy group of high school friends make their way to an unchaperoned party at their mafia-son classmate’s palatial marble estate. There is a large array of interesting characters, deeply realized and sketched with conviction (even Gum Worsley, the deaf basset hound, is a fully fledged character in itself, who succeeds in leaving an impression on readers’ minds). Grouse’s attempts to thrive despite the tragic circumstances and his endearing bond with Jack involve the reader. In addition, the darkly humorous twist to Grouse’s parents’ separation makes a touching contrast to the Grouse losing his father and grandmother one after another. Looking at the assured, intelligent writing, it seems Henning possess a highly unusual eye and ear that he has put at work here. Still, for all its ingenious material, the novel lacks a suitable novelistic shape. However, this engrossing tale of high-school students trying to navigate life is etched in reality (so much so that it feels more like a memoir than a fictional story). The bittersweet, almost nebulous and yet satisfying ending leave readers with a feeling of exhilaration, craving for more. With its baroque mini storylines, masterly storytelling, and zany, cerebral humor, Henning’s brilliant work will appeal to serious readers of slice-of-life literary fiction. This is a dazzling work.
Note: This title is free on Kindle Unlimited.
Paradise High: A Novel
By William Henning
Sunnyside Books LLC
Pub date March 25, 2020
Price $13.98 (USD) Paperback, $5.56 Kindle edition