In a small Michigan town, the jobs of blue-collar workers slowly disappear in an ever-worsening economy, erasing the security of years on GM and Ford assembly-lines. Father after father leaves town, finally too ashamed to face their families, their dignity replaced by sullenness, disappointment and drunkenness.
Sixteen-year old Michael Smolij watches as his father follows the other men, distracted by their own incompetence, wasting directionless days at the local tavern before finally disappearing forever, "gone to the moon." It is their grieving wives who are left to carry the parental burdens, often holding two jobs to make ends meet. Abandoned sons fend for themselves, casualties of society's disinterest. Along with the helpless anger lodges a seed of doubt, the fear of becoming like their fathers.
As the years pass, Michael loses interest and direction, hanging out with his cousin Nick, whose father has also gone "to the moon." The loss of their fathers breeds a twisted violence in the sons left behind, the boys forced to premature manhood, childhood relegated to a few distant memories; thus is born a smothered anger and an incalculable sadness that resides deep in their hearts. Michael drifts into a cursory education, partially fueled by the young women in his life.
In tender prose tinged occasionally with the angry bravado of something-to-prove, Michael and Nick stumble through their lives, barely navigating the unfamiliar terrain of manhood, their haphazard decisions suddenly life choices. In the very city where their fathers once toiled, the only employment for Michael, Nick and their contemporaries is at the local shopping mall, a failing economy grinding up any opportunity for a decent life. Once destined for failure, fate intervenes for Michael Smolij, gradually altering his direction; against the odds, Michael finds his voice.
Dean Bakopoulos is unstintingly honest, navigating the emotional territory of abandonment with a poignant view of loss that leaves a permanent tattoo on the psyche. This is the language of broken-hearted young men who subconsciously think of their fathers, wondering how they might have changed, if they are happy on the moon or have forgotten their sons.
With a surfeit of desolate images, towns and people forgotten, Bakopoulos delivers a sensitive and soulful novel on the pains of growing up fatherless, where dreams have no purchase. As adolescent boys become young men, marry and start families, they cannot bear to acknowledge the fear that resides unspoken, the legacy of their fathers...a silent call to the moon: "Like an eye, the moon follows us wherever we go."