Port Townsend readers may find this emotionally gripping novel by former Port Townsend writer, Michael Daley, hauntingly familiar. Telémachus is a timeless dream of a book that takes place in a town where boat builders, artists and writers, waitresses, tavern dwellers and ordinary neighbors mix in unpredictable ways.
Bobby Bacca, age 13, waits on the bench outside The Pocket, a bar reminiscent of Port Townsend’s Town Tavern of the ’70s and’80s, while his father, Mac, drinks and holds forth with the rowdy crowd just inside. Bored, he decides to go upstairs, where a giant swing is hung from the rafters:
“Divots in rotting steps had collected rain, or beer, in small puddles off the boots of those who lived upstairs: the tavern staff, the workers in the woods and on boats, who also paid for room and board… As I leapt up each irregular step, my flight seemed virtually perpendicular.”
By turns, Bobby is a free-wheeling boy cycling through town, an adolescent attempting to make sense of the careless, shifting adult world around him, and a young adult, a painter of miniature landscapes, floundering and trying to make ends meet. Telémachus begins when Bobby learns of his estranged father’s death. The father, a once-renowned poet and literary critic, has finally come to his end on the skids, on a bench in South Boston. And thus begins this young man’s quest to understand his father’s life and his own.
Michael Daley’s east coast roots, his Irish Catholic background, and his own growth as a writer while living in Port Townsend in the 70’s and early 80’s, all play into this compelling novel. Telémachus is a story of human struggle, hubris and humility, deep love and unintentional cruelty, set in a lovely seaside town, in American academia and in urban Boston.
For readers who are given to examining the many threads of human lives, through the eyes of such a boy and young man as Bobby, this book is a delicious read. Bobby’s early abandonment and confusion, and his resulting lonely questioning underlie this story as it winds its way to some semblance of understanding and forgiveness.
To order Telémachus, please visit your local bookstore or if you use Amazon, click the link here.