In his debut novel, Red Weather (Shaye Areheart), Pauls Toutonghi zeros in on a time (1989), a place (working-class Milwaukee), and an age (15) with startling acuity. His narrator, Yuri, the shy son of Latvian immigrants, is torn between bravado and bewilderment as he wrestles with the embarrassments of adolescence–his alcoholic, romantic father, Rudolfs, chief among them. When Yuri falls hard for the daughter of a socialist blowhard, the resulting microcultural clashes mirror the geopolitical upheavals of the time; in one winsome scene Yuri’s parents watch the fall of the Berlin Wall on TV and sloppily, giddily kiss as Yuri squirms. As a coming-of-age story Red Weather is a little aimless–a late tangent involving Yuri and his second cousin is mystifying. But it’s also a wry character study of the confounding Rudolfs and a tardy, gentle appreciation of a father by his son–a love song as sweet as any sung by the mythic Latvian balladeer for whom the boy is named. Bookslut Reading Series with Daniel Nester (God Save My Queen) and Ned Vizzini (It’s Kind of a Funny Story), Tue 6/27, 7:30 PM, Hopleaf Bar, 5148 N. Clark, 312-850-4277.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ed Lederman.