Book Review: The Wasp Eater by William Lychack

Title: The Wasp Eater

Author: William Lychack

Genre: Historical Fiction

Number of Pages: 192

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes

The Wasp Eater centers around a young boy named Daniel whose family is falling is apart. His parents get divorced and while his mom openly despises his dad, his dad is an irresponsible and coercive asshole who enlists Daniel to help them get back together. Bob, the father, has been having an affair with his ex-wife’s niece (ew) and doesn’t seem to care about anybody but himself, but that doesn’t stop him from manipulating Daniel.

This was a beautifully written book. The world the author evoked was so vivid without being overwritten. I especially thought the scenes near the end where Bob and Daniel go on the trip together made me feel like I was right there with them. I hated Bob and I didn’t really like Daniel’s mom Anna either.

Bob just seemed like a drunk bully who wouldn’t take no for an answer. He gave me the heebie-jeebies. I didn’t feel like I really got to know Daniel that well, even though he was the protagonist. He remained a little bit of a mystery to me, developed only as far as his relationship with his feuding parents. Bob and Anna, while unlikable, definitely felt more like real people to me.

The dynamics of the damaged relationships also rang true, even though I’ve never been in a situation like the one Daniel was in. I knew a family where the dad turned his sons against the mom, and this reminded me of them.

It’s a sad reality that some parents can’t go through a divorce while still managing to keep their child’s innocence intact. The complexity of the father-son relationship is at the center of this slim novel, and I would have liked to have seen more of Anna’s viewpoint, but I think the author succeeded at painting a bleak portrait of a fractured family.


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