In the Cherry Tree Review
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This book traces a seemingly uneventful summer in the adolescence of narrator Timmy, a sort of “everyboy” who has just the right mix of irreverence, curiosity, obsession, loyalty, lust, anger, and decency to resemble a real human being. Beneath the uneventful surface of the novel, important events and significant changes take place in Timmy’s life and perception.

There is much that is familiar to readers who lived through the book’s mid-1970s suburban America setting. Pope has a memoirist's eye for detail. Timmy revels in all the minutia that dominate a young boy’s observations--from popular music to movies to TV, all the way to lusty adult neighbors and the quirks of his own siblings and parents. Unlike memoir writers, Pope brings no adult filter to Timmy’s voice. That an adult writer can so thoroughly allow readers to experience life through the perspective of his young narrator is quite a feat of literary dexterity.

In addition to his skill at capturing just the right details, Pope is simply a terrific crafter of the written word. Even through the adolescent narrator’s voice, his language moves beautifully through moments that approach poetry to other equally satisfying moments of near reportage as Timmy enumerates his countless observations. The book’s great humor comes both from the tragicomic situations that Timmy experiences and the delightful way he narrates these experiences. Pope is so stylistically skilled that it sometimes hardly matters what is actually occurring as the novel unfolds.

“Stuff” certainly happens in the book. Pets die, parents argue, youngsters and adults have carnal adventures, and people show their positive and disturbing personality traits in a variety of minor and major ways. But don’t come to this book looking for the “action” that often overwhelms traditional boy-moving-toward-manhood books. Pope works on a more sophisticated plane. Timmy experiences no psychological earthquakes--just a subtle erosion of his emotional landscape. Friends and family (and ultimately Timmy himself) change. These are not the melodramatic changes of lesser coming-of-age novels. Just as people do in the real world, the characters of Pope’s In The Cherry Tree arrive at the end of this fragment of their life story changed just enough to inhabit the world in a slightly different place.

And thanks to Pope’s encyclopedic but precise choice of detail, his delightful style, and his subtle hand in shaping his protagonist, readers can find a place in that world as well.

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