Home » Book Review » Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

Tales of the Madman UndergroundTales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely love Karl Shoemaker’s honest, youthful, brave, foul-mouthed, caring voice.
From laughter to tears, this book takes us through Karl’s first six days of senior year high school, this tale of fierce friendship in 1973 – much more interesting than any days of my senior year!
Karl’s dad was the mayor of Lightsburg, OH and there’s a street in town named for the family. Karl’s mother is a widow, an alcoholic who steals Karl’s hard earned money to drink not only at home, but in local bars so she can pick up men. She leaves an IOU with the date and amount whenever she steals from Karl. This makes Karl the only adult in this household, one who has wisely set up some kind of trustee account with his mom’s pay check so their bills get paid first. But…that just keeps the roof over their heads and the lights on.
Since fourth grade, Karl has been in group therapy at school. For this last year of school he is desperate to have a “normal” year:
No group therapy – no sessions with the Madman Underground during school hours – talk about a stigma inducer!
A social life?
A non-group therapy girl friend?
So, Karl launches “Operation Be Fucking Normal.” Oh, yeah. He wants to keep his friends who are all members of that therapy group.
A 2010 LJ review says “This book is the first, and not the last, title on this [?] list that details the impact of bad parenting on kids.” Ouch! I wonder what other books are on that list?
Two highlights:
p.454 “So we fell asleep holding hands. If married couples got to do this all the time, shit if I could understand how there were ever divorces, or even fights.”
p.505 The rescue for Karl. Just ask. Please. Kids of alcoholics? You’ll get it.

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