Bread, Bags & Bullies: Surviving the 80’s. Steven Manchester. Luna Bella Press. November 2019. pb, 208 pp.; ASIN: B07YR894QP.
Those who grew up in the 1980’s are going to love this novel which describes the family of Herbie, Wally and Cockroach, three brothers who loved and tormented each other while growing up. They grow up in a strict family where the rules are definite although somewhat out of the box of today’s norms. Steven Manchester is uniquely talented to capture the essences of a person (or family’s) strengths and weaknesses that is real and without artifice. It’s funny as well!
They’re definitely addicted to the Atari 2600 games with two joystick controllers with red buttons, paddle controllers and black game cartridges. They love and hate the Combat or Air Sea Battle. In moments of quiet they confess their deepest fears to each other. They never miss TV shows such as Knots Landing, Donny and Marie, Tony Orlando and Dawn, the Lawrence Welk Show with the bubbles and corny music, and the always funny Carol Burnett Show. They’re thrilled with the music of Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, REO Speedwagon and Queen. They know their family is far from The Brady Bunch TV family. They also know they are poor but don’t worry too much about it. Instead, one works as a newspaper delivery boy and others can’t wait their appropriate age to do the same. They can’t wait for high school with the ability to go to concerts, earn money for a dream car like a Camaro, Pontiac Firebird or Trans Am and drag racing. They’re obvious fans of the Lakers basketball team over the Celtics. They’re into Motor Trend and Popular Mechanics magazines with an occasional forced foray into reading novels like To Kill a Mockingbird. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is an irresistible movie that feeds their young imaginations. MTV is starting to get rave reviews as well as numerous Billboard Chart idols.
Daily lessons are frequent but the largest one is to stand strong against bullies. It’s believed that not facing fear will allow that fear to become a monster in one’s life, and so one of the brothers prepares to face one of his most formidable opponents on the school bus. Mom and Dad are to be heard and obeyed. The brothers may fight and rag on each other constantly but they are always there for each other in time of need, including when they have physical or emotional challenges.
Steven Manchester’s latest novel is a delightful look back to an age when families could name their challenges and meet them accordingly with love and toughness where appropriate. Nicely crafted coming of age story, Steven Manchester!