Tricks Every Boy Can Do offers a meditation on how family both molds and transforms us.
The contentious relationship between two identical brothers takes center stage in Paul Buchanan’s Tricks Every Boy Can Do. People are defined by their families through word and deed, and the same can be said of Frankie and Alvie. The choices one brother makes have long-lasting effects on the other’s life and vice versa, suggesting that sometimes your destiny is not entirely your own to form.
The surviving brothers of a set of triplets, Frankie and Alvie appear and act like a typical pair of twins, from their identical appearance to their opposing personalities. But when prankster Frankie stands in for his quiet brother one day, his actions alter the path of Alvie’s life forever. In fact, the repercussions of that fateful evening echo into the future, when the brothers reunite years later and fall in love with the same woman.
Through selected glimpses into the brothers’ lives over the course of two decades, Tricks Every Boy Can Do offers a meditation on how family both molds and transforms us. Just as Frankie’s actions impacted Alvie’s life, the secrets Alvie holds close can rock the foundation of his brother’s existence. In the end, the final choices made by the brothers reflect the type of people they are, for better or worse.
Beyond the brothers, their mother, Rose, shines a light upon the roads not taken. While Rose devotes her attention to raising her two sons, she also dreams of a different life where she can explore her own needs and desires. The irony of this situation is that her wishes are within reach, should she be willing to walk toward them. Rose’s inaction defines her, and in many ways her string of missed opportunities affects her sons.
The brothers in Paul Buchanan’s novel do indeed demonstrate tricks that every boy can do. The central question, however, rests not in their ability to execute tricks, but rather whether they should be tricksters in the first place. While the decisions they face are not easy, those decisions reflect a reality in which family ultimately means sacrifice and letting go.
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