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Saving Grandma: A Novel


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With the same humor and warmth that distinguished Portofino (Macmillan, 1992), Schaeffer continues the story of Calvin Becker, his missionary family, and the love his life, Jennifer. No matter how the family tries to convince Calvin to spread the word of the Lord and convert Europe's youth, Calvin is much more interested in getting into trouble. After his grandmother breaks her hip and has to move in with the family, the plot really begins to move. A most interesting relationship develops between Calvin and his supposedly evil grandmother. Born to American missionary parents in Switzerland and raised a fundamentalist, Schaeffer also ran away from boarding school; thus, he can give great insight into his protagonist. Portofino will soon be made into a movie, and one can hope the same will happen to the present work. A fine acquisition for all libraries.‘Vicki J. Cecil, Hartford City P.L., Ind.

Thirteen-year-old Calvin Becker gets all the best lines in this irreverent, amusing sequel to Schaeffer's 1992 Portofino. Like that novel, this one follows the adventures of the Becker family, Presbyterian missionaries, as they try to convert the people of "Pagan Europe" in the late 1960s. Hapless, accident-prone Calvin, confused by the twin adolescent terrors of sex and the Foreknowledge/Predestination debate, finds his life complicated further when foul-mouthed, chronically sacrilegious Grandma breaks her hip and moves in with the family. While his father goes increasingly insane, Calvin emerges from erotic daydreams about his English pen-pal Jennifer long enough to form an unholy alliance with Grandma and to run off seeking the counsel of an aging Italian painter (befriended in the first book). Schaeffer's slapstick jokes and often tender evocations of youth make for an uneasy but entertaining cross between Portnoy's Complaint and TV's The Wonder Years. His nuanced characterization of Calvin‘part malicious prankster, part helpless victim of his absurd family‘breathes life into the stock ensemble cast and heavy-handed religious satire. (Sept.)

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