Justin Kramon,
(Random House, 2010)

Finny, a first novel by Justin Kramon, tells the story of about 20 years in the life of Finny Short, whom we meet as a 14-year-old misfit, red-headed, freckled and continually exasperated with her parents. Her father is a distant man who insists on quoting philosophers at her, and her mother tries to make her into the perfect 40-year-old matron. Finny, however, insists of being herself, and we all know what a pain that can be.

At 14, Finny meets Earl Henckel, a kid who lives near her family. Earl has his own family issues; his mother has abandoned him and his father is a narcoleptic, who sometimes falls asleep in the middle of giving a piano lesson. It is love at first sight, and when her parents find out she's been spending time with Earl, they ship Finny off to a boarding school for girls in Massachusetts. There she meets most of the characters who will populate the novel and her life over the next two decades -- a very strange dorm-mother, a seductive New York City socialite and her gay best friend.

Reading Finny, you sort of feel that Charles Dickens has come back to life in 21st-century America, spent time with F. Scott Fitzgerald and resumed his career with this book. As the heroine makes her way through college, some half-hearted stabs at a career and becomes entwined in the lives of her friends, Finny struck me as a post-modern David Copperfield. The odd thing is that it works; Finny is a touching novel, filled with characters you'll remember.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

7 August 2010

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