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Coming-of-age novel set in NEW JERSEY

10th May 2021

Dust by Mark Thompson, coming-of-age novel set in NEW JERSEY.

Coming-of-age novel set in NEW JERSEY

This beautifully written debut novel would not be out of place alongside the work of Steinbeck and Philipp Meyer’s American Rust

Every once in a while a book comes along that proves to be something just a bit special. And this is one of those books. It is a debut, published back in 2016 and it is written with skill, creativity and humour, with just enough sharp edge to keep it feeling very real.

JJ and El Greco are best buddies, aged 11, and the book opens as they are sitting by the local cannery smoking Kent cigarettes. They are essentially shooting the breeze but their caper of starting small fires balloons into a fully fledged conflagration which sees the nearby senior residence come under threat. The fire fighters arrive, the police sirens wail. They get away with not being caught by just a whisker. This is the first of several boyish escapades.

They hang out together over one summer, as the dust swirls and the sun beats down. Cecil, aka Adolf, makes JJ’s life a misery, as only an older brother can. El Greco’s father is AWOL, a good time Charlie who is pretty much always absent. They build their friendship, they cope with life and things are pretty OK. And then illness strikes, shattering the kids’ easy living….

Down the line there is a road trip with JJ’s father to Savannah, driving through the heart of America and the story just continues to flow, transported by the four wheels of the car. The author vividly conjures up quintessential America just through small observations and encounters, lingering in places along the route, savouring the essence of setting.

This is a really strong debut that is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam/American War and the escalating racial tensions.  It is a beautifully written story of easy friendship, it is poignant and full of banter and wit and it blew me away.

Tina for the TripFiction Team 

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  1. User: Yvonne@FictionBooks

    Posted on: 14/05/2021 at 8:21 am

    Hi Tina,

    What a lovely review, you really sold this one to me!

    I do enjoy a book with a real sense of time and place and this story sounds as though it offers both those things in spadefuls!

    Definitely one for my ‘wish list’, thanks for sharing 🙂


    1 Comment

    • User: Tina Hartas

      Posted on: 14/05/2021 at 9:43 am

      This was sitting on my TBR pile for quite some time and how lovely to find something fresh and well writing!! Hope you enjoy it!


Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021