Be Home by Dinner by Carl Franke – A Book Review
“Be Home By Dinner”, written by Carl Franke, is the story of Garvey Nolan as he navigates the events of his life growing up a Generation X’er. It spans from when he was four years old in 1978 and ending in 1993 when he was in college. Each chapter is a snapshot look into his life at significant times while growing up in a small town.
The memoir feel of the story was enforced by each chapter being subtitled with a month and year of when the events of that chapter took place. I didn’t care for that as I found myself constantly going back to the previous chapter to remind myself where it left off and doing the math in my head to figure out how much time had elapsed. Now, that could be because my memory isn’t as good as it used to be but it was a distraction in my reading flow.
The chapter dating gave this novel the feel of reading someone’s diary or journal. That in itself is not a bad thing, but I don’t understand why Franke didn’t just make this into a biography rather than a work of fiction. I might be making a bad assumption here, but this read very auto-biographical. If I am correct in that most of the situations and people Franke wrote about are based or pulled from his personal experiences growing up, then I think it would have been a stronger and less restrained story if he wrote it that way.
I was also looking for a common thread to help tie this into a single novel. Each chapter read like a separate story with nothing to urge me to read the next chapter. There were some events that did cross different chapters but I still didn’t get the feel of a cohesive story.
I most enjoyed the chapters that had Kova, one of the main antagonists of the book, because it added tension that I think was missing from the rest of the story.
I can’t tell you the number of flashbacks and happy memories that hit me while I was reading. From making mixtapes, listening to Pink Floyd, renting movies at the local video store and watching MTV. Even though I am a city GenXer, and this book takes place in a small town, the shared experiences we all had brought me back. I don’t know if somebody who didn’t grow up in the ’70s and ’80s would have that same sense of nostalgia but the detail of the references worked for me.
I applaud the work that Franke put into this. He strove to really get the atmosphere of the late ’70s and ’80s. I am giving this book two tokens however as I think it missed the mark of being a novel.