I consider myself well-read, but I think I dropped the ball by not picking this one up sooner. I've had it sitting on my self for a year or so. Once I started reading, I could not put this book down.
The book is based on Eggers's real life, when both of his parents died from cancer and he was placed in charge of his younger brother. Eggers (21) and Toph (8) move from Chicago to California and Eggers does his best to be a parent/brother and juggle a new career and find a sense of community with his friends. Also, he auditions for MTV's the Real World.
I think that Eggers does a beautiful job of capturing the joy and fear of being responsible for another human being. The conversations and interactions between him and Toph are ones I can easily imagine my brothers having.
"Then, at the moment that I am turning the corner, I become convinced, in a flash of pure truth-seeing - it happens every time I leave him anywhere - that Toph will be killed. "That fear is something I can identify with, if to a lesser degree. I have two siblings much younger than myself, who I am babysitting at the moment, and am fiercely protective of them. I worry about them a lot and when I am watching them I feel much like an auxiliary parent as opposed to just a sister like I feel around my older-younger brothers.
I did have a bit of trouble getting through the introduction the first time I picked this book up. Eggers' style is very different from the type of book I usually enjoy (old Russian novels) but I think that reading his short story collection, How We Are Hungry, helped a lot. His writing is different, very different, but very real. He breaks the fourth wall, his characters yell at him for using them as plot devices and the copyright page is unexpectedly hilarious.
I loved this book and highly, highly recommend it to anyone. I'm sure I have mentioned before that Eggers founded McSweeny's, which I also suggest checking out.
"Please sound normal, Toph, you are normal, we are normal so just sound normal please can't you? Don't sound like I've been beating your, like you're in the bathroom hiding from me, because I have been there, have hidden from parents before, have been on the other side of a door being stuck with all conceivable parental force, have searched the bathroom for places to hide, have found a place in the closet where the bath toys are kept, under the lowest shelf, and I have hidden there, and have seen, darkening the white slit of light under the door to this closet, his shoes, and then the white light everywhere as the door is opened..."