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Under the Wolf, Under the Dog


Under the Wolf, Under the Dog

I first picked up a copy of UNDER THE WOLF, UNDER THE DOG at Book Expo America, which was held in Chicago in 2004. I pulled it out of my bag to read on the El, which was going from Washington to Jefferson Park, and I became so absorbed in Steve Nugent's story that I almost missed my stop. But that is what Adam Rapp does best: tell stories that are at once despairing, brutal, true, and hopeful.

Like THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, this is a retrospective story told by a resident of a mental (and, in this case, drug rehab) institution, but Steve has been through a lot more than just getting kicked out of boarding school. Steve is a Gray Grouper at Burnstone Grove, neither a drug addict nor suicidal, but someone who cracked slowly under too many stresses. He lost his mother, and then his brother; through these deaths, when Steve needed him the most, his father became more distant.

With an unapologetic eye for detail, Rapp takes us through Steve's discovery of his brother's dead body and the crimes he commits afterwards. Instead of revulsion, we as readers feel sympathy for Steve, who is as sensitive and captivating as he is observant and honest, a good person in a series of bad situations. The supporting characters --- including Mary, the beautiful pianist Steve has a crush on, and Shannon Lynch, a manipulative resident of Burnstone Grove who can put $1.87 in change up his nose --- add color and dimension to Steve's experiences.

There is humor here for those who need to laugh in the most difficult situations and hope for those who need some kind of happy ending. It is a serious but never melodramatic book that will stay with you once it's finished, and will spark thought and pathos. In this reviewer's opinion, UNDER THE WOLF, UNDER THE DOG is one of the best books of 2004.

Reviewed by Carlie Webber on September 23, 2004

Under the Wolf, Under the Dog
by Adam Rapp

  • Publication Date: May 8, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 0763633658
  • ISBN-13: 9780763633653