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Hold it 'til it hurts : a novel
T. Geronimo Johnson
Adult Fiction JOHNSON

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From Publishers' Weekly:

This powerful, stylish debut novel from New Orleans native and former Stegner fellow Johnson concerns a 22-year-old black man adopted and raised by a white couple who is trying to make sense and order of his life after three years of serving two Army tours in Afghanistan. Achilles and his younger brother Troy Conroy return to Hagerstown, Md., as their father's wake is in progress. News of his death had failed to reach them at Bagram AFB, and soon after their return, Anna, their mother, divulges information about their birth parents. Both brothers are transracial adoptees with different biological parents, but "easygoing" Achilles only cares about taking care of the "reckless" Troy, who slips away to New Orleans, presumably on a quest to locate his biological parents. Achilles follows Troy to New Orleans where his trail mysteriously vanishes. In the course of his dogged search for Troy, Achilles sparks a romance with the "classic rich hippy" Ines Delesseppes, from whom he keeps secrets (such as his adoption). Hurricane Katrina forms and begins its march to New Orleans as Achilles, after getting a lead on his brother's whereabouts from an old Army pal, leaves to track down the errant Troy in Atlanta where disturbing news awaits. The stark backstory fleshing out Achilles and Troy's arduous combat duty over in "Goddamnistan" smartly plays off the thorough exploration of modern American attitudes on race, war, and family in this richly textured debut. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

As Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate Johnson shows us in his first novel, life is messy, elating, and complicated. The narrative revolves around Achilles Conroy, who has returned from a tour of duty in Iraq to learn that his father has died. Both Achilles and his brother are black, born of different parents, and their adoptive parents are white. Following the funeral, their mother gives them their birth parents' information. Troy immediately embarks on a journey to find them and disappears. So Achilles begins his own journey two weeks later to find his missing brother. In addition to the strong story (and perhaps to capture the authenticity of life), the author pays keen attention to detail: "He considered making a dental appointment, solely for that moment when the hygienist flossed his teeth. Routine sure, but it felt so damn good, almost self-indulgent, so indescribably delicious that he'd never admitted to anyone how much he enjoyed the sensation." VERDICT Recalling Rula Jubreal's Miral, this novel addresses complex themes of war, love, kinship, and race yet has the tension of a thriller. For all readers of literary fiction.-Ashanti White, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Achilles Conroy
Age: 22
African American
Raised by a white couple; serves two Army tours in Afghanistan; returns home to discover his father is deceased; goes along with his brother looking for their biological parents.

Troy Conroy
African American
Brother of Achilles; goes searching for his biological parents in New Orleans;.

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