First swing almost missed me. Fist came over his shoulder and I swayed back. Knuckles grazed the bridge of my nose and chin before digging into my chest. When I swayed again my foot didn't follow back the way I'd practiced. I went off-balance. Lost focus when the second punch came.
In the opening passages of 'Summer Of The Cicada', the boy Joseph Pullman describes, with chillingly passive detachment, a brutal and protracted beating at his father's hands. Joseph and his parents have just moved to Maritime, Massachusetts but the new start brings no change to Joe's life. The threat of violence in his father's house is unrelenting and his mother is slowly slipping away from reality. Things at home deteriorate and Joe faces trouble at school - but still the teachers, medical staff and neighbours fail to ask where he is getting all those scars and bruises.
Joseph seeks refuge in the woods. He forms an uneasy friendship with the awkward Dean Gillespie and the boys occupy themselves burying animal corpses at the Killing Tree. One afternoon they set out to find the 'Grits', wandering gypsies and tramps rumoured to live in the woods. The next day a local boy is found tied to a tree, unconscious, the victim of a brutal attack. Meanwhile, Joseph's mother is gone and his father has retreated to his basement workshop with his bottles of whisky.
This is the summer that the cicadas are due to come out of their seventeen-year hibernation and Joseph becomes convinced that their arrival will bring his salvation. Terrified by the noises coming from the basement and with nowhere to run, he sleeps with a knife under his pillow. When another local boy disappears, the residents of the town are finally forced to face the secrets of the Pullman's house. Will Napier's book evokes a boyhood summer that is both beautiful and terrifying and a hero whose voice is impossible to forget.