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The Clarinet Polka by Keith Maillard
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The Clarinet Polka (2002)

by Keith Maillard

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Jimmy Kaprowski returns to his hometown of Raysburg, West Virginia following his deployment to Vietnam. He had never planned to return. Steel is the chief industry. There is a large Polish-American community. Unfortunately, I could not continue to read this book. It was one in which I did not feel a connection and the amount of profanity used by Jimmy and his friends was more than I was able to tolerate. I'm a little sad about this as I was really curious how he was going to incorporate the musical theme. At the point I abandoned it, we had earlier been introduced to Jimmy's sister who played piano well, loved polkas, and was learning to play trumpet. However, we had not been introduced to a clarinet player.
  thornton37814 | Aug 20, 2011 |
The setting for this book is Raysburg, West Virginia. It is the 1969, and Raysburg is home to dying steel mills and a huge Polish-American population. The narrarator of this story is Jimmy Koprowski, who is recently returned from serving a stint in the military. The Vietnam War is raging on, but Jimmy never made it farther than Guam. He is now "re-integrating" back into civilian life. Jimmy lives at home with his steelworker father, stay-at-home mother, and sister Linda, who has what appears to be a useless music degree. Jimmy drinks, works at a TV repair shop, and drinks some more. Linda is teaching herself to play the trumpet, and her dream is to form an all-girl polka band. To help her out, Jimmy agrees to be band manager and eventually falls for one the band members, the clarinet player. A "bad match," at least at that time, is putting it lightly. There are numerous themes running through this book that keep the reader on his/her toes: the Vietnam war, the Holocaust, the '60s culture, alcoholism, what is is to be Polish-American, Catholicism. There is a happy ending, but there are some very dark spots getting there. Highly recommended. ( )
  CatieN | Nov 11, 2009 |
Keith Maillard has a significant talent and literary style. I chose this book after reading "Gloria," and found it to be totally enthralling. I know nothing about Polish immigrants, the polka or blue-collar communities in W.V., but Keith Maillard made them very accessible. At the end of this book, I knew the characters well through Maillard's exquisite rendering of them through their interactions and relationships with Danny, the main character. Don't overlook Maillard when you are looking for an excellent book that will strike many poignant chords. ( )
  pdebolt | Jun 9, 2008 |
Showing 4 of 4
The novel’s strengths are its vivid rendering of the South Raysburg community and its memorable portrait of the narrator through his unmistakeable voice.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312308906, Paperback)

Author Keith Maillard received critical acclaim with his novel Gloria, which told the story of a young woman on the cusp of womanhood in a town called Raysburg, West Virginia. In The Clarinet Polka, Maillard turns that same eagle-eyed attention to the other side of the tracks of that very same town and creates a stunning portrait of Polish America and of one man’s struggle to find meaning in his life and roots.

The year is 1969, and young Jimmy Koprowski returns from his stint in the airforce to Raysburg, his blue-collar Polish American hometown where nothing much happens beyond working at the steel mill, going to Mass, and getting drunk at the local PAC. Jimmy’s efforts at rebuilding his life result in sleeping off hangovers in his parents’ attic and drifting into a destructive affair with a married woman.

But things change when his younger sister Linda decides to start an all-girl polka band, and Jimmy falls for the band’s star clarinetist, Janice, whose young life is haunted by tragic events that happened before she was born. The threads of Jimmy’s family life, the legacy of WWII Poland, and the healing power of music, language, and tradition all begin to converge.

At once gritty and compassionate, moving and witty, The Clarinet Polka showcases the emotional and perfectly pitched voice of a lost soul finding his way.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:56 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"The year is 1969, and young Jimmy Koprowski returns from his stint in the air force to Raysburg, his blue-collar Polish-American hometown where nothing much happens beyond working at the steel mill, going to Mass, and getting drunk at the local PAC. Jimmy's efforts at rebuilding his life result in sleeping off hangovers in his parents' attic and drifting into a destructive affair with a married woman." "But things change when his younger sister, Linda, decides to start an all-girl polka band and Jimmy falls for the bands star clarinetist, Janice, whose young life is haunted by tragic events that happened before she was born. The threads of Jimmy's family life, the legacy of WWII Poland, and the healing power of music, language, and tradition all begin to converge."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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