This novel hit me hard on many levels. On the surface it is about two friends, Isaac English,twenty years old, brainy yet socially inept who was supposed to go off to an Ivy League college and Billy Poe a big brawny football star who was supposed to go off to college on a football scholarship. Both are in Buell a small Pennsylvania steel town that has been dying since the mill closed down by circumstances of their own making. Isaac trapped looking after his disabled father after his mother commits suicide and Billy trapped by his inertia and his love of the town. This book tells of the demise of industrialised America and with it the American dream and it tells of loyalty and friendship, of love and loss and of despair and the consequences of choices. It's a memorable book, one that left me stunned for a couple of hours after finishing it and for a first novel it is a fantastic work of fiction - stunning.

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