Synopses & Reviews
In Portland, Orgeon, three high school friends?Leon, Chris and Kayla?spend their time skateboarding studying foreign languages and classical music, and plotting a shared future that will avoid the superficiality they witness in the adult world around them. There is only one adult they admire, whom they suspect might hold secrets worth knowing. Natalie lives alone in a decrepit trailer, yet seems happy, and to have few concerns. As they befriend her she persuades them to harvest copper wire from the high tension electrical lines in the countryside around the city, until one day when there is an accident in which Leon is electrocuted. He appears to shake it off, yet soon?despite his denials of anything being wrong?his behavior comes to resemble Natalie's in many ways. The mystery of what has happened to Leon (and to Natalie) leads Kayla and Chris on an adventure that takes them into the world of a remarkable group of people. These people live among us and are almost impossible to recognize, yet they possess different needs, and different powers. What they do not possess is insight into their condition, or any awareness that they are different. Others are left to wonder at?and attempt to profit from?the possibilities these people contain. Chris and Kayla are not alone in attempting to study, to use, and perhaps even to join their ranks.
"Oddball teens and even odder adults people Rock's quietly mysterious latest novel (after 2001's The Ambidextrist). Bonded by their disdain of their superficial peers, 15-year-olds Kayla, Chris and Leon spend their free time skateboarding along the gray Portland, Ore., streets and stripping copper wire from telephone poles. The latter activity they perform on behalf of a very peculiar woman named Natalie, who lives in a beat-up trailer and who sells the wire to a creepy guy named Chesterton. When Leon is badly shocked on one wire-hunting trip, the adolescent trio figure they ought to get to the bottom of the project; the book's first half follows them on their pursuit of Natalie as she reconnects with Steven, a colleague from her corporate past, and indulges her pastime of dressing up like a 1976 Playboy playmate. What they can't figure out is her obsession with electricity and copper wire. Leon begins to act strangely, and the plot takes a turn for the weird when Chesterton's experiments with the wire are revealed. Rock never quite establishes the lure of the experiments to the various secondary characters, and the novel as a whole lacks tightness. But Rock does a fine job fostering a sense of foreboding in his strange world of outsider's Portland, and each member of his ensemble cast has his or her own eccentric appeal." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Rock's unfussy, straightforward prose style works especially well with his increasingly weird narrative. When things really start to get wacky, we are already so vested in the real world that the narrative swing is just enough to make things interesting, but not quite so much as to cause giggling." Portland Oregonian
"After a compelling start to the novel....Rock crafts wonderful skateboarding scenes...including an early morning run in a multilevel parking garage." San Francisco Chronicle
"Rock presents fresh nuances of alienation in his young characters and his depiction of teenage aimlessness is particularly accurate." Library Journal
"The story goes nowhere near where you might imagine; plot connections are left dangling; mysterious and unexplained characters drift off into the night. Yet there's a cool dread about its pages that captivates for long stretches." Kirkus Reviews
Set in Portland, Oregon, The Bewildered follows three high school friends who skateboard, study languages and music, and, lured by a strange woman they suspect might hold valuable secrets, illegally harvest copper wire from electrical lines outside the city. When a disastrous accident leads them on an adventure through underground tunnels and into Chinatown, they discover a remarkable group of people with unique needs and powers.
About the Author
Peter Rock grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is the author of the novels The Bewildered, The Ambidextrist, Carnival Wolves, and This Is the Place. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and recipient of a 2000 NEA Fellowship, he now lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches at Reed College.