The Flowers

Meet Sonny Bravo, the sweet but surly almost-sixteen-year-old who shrugs his way through The Flowers , Austinite Dagoberto Gilb ’s first novel since 1994’s The Last Known Residence of Micky Acuña . At Los Flores— the East L.A. apartment building where Sonny lives with his mother, Silvia, and her redneck husband, Cloyd, who runs the place—each day brings a moral dilemma: Should he sweep Cloyd’s sidewalks or steal the wad of cash in his desk? Smoke mota with sluttish neighbor Cindy or eat pizza with virginal Nica? Gilb, a cranky stylist to be sure, revels in his flawed characters. They’re selfish, stoned, and dishonest; when a race riot breaks out, it’s as if he’s summoning Old Testament hellfire and brimstone. But Gilb, more romanticist than moralist, looks into Sonny’s future and sees redemption, not damnation, waiting there. Grove Atlantic, $24

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