Cover image for First tiger / George Harrar.
First tiger / George Harrar.
Harrar, George, 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Sag Harbor, NY : Permanent Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
239 pages ; 23 cm
Geographic Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Author George Harrar explores this provocative question in his debut novel, set in the arts colony of New Hope, Pennsylvania, on the Delaware River. The book begins 10 years after the accident when Jake Paine, now 16, comes home after almost a year as a runaway. His rerum sparks painful memories for his father, a man verging on a nervous breakdown. Jake's appearance also reignites old fears among townspeople about a boy who dances on the edge of craziness.


"Fellow Travelers" is also the story of the women in the brothers lives: Katya, the peasant girl Victor rescues from the streets of Moscow; Tania, the communist party functionary who eventually becomes his wife; and Yelena, the singer and cabaret entertainer Manny marries and ultimately destroys. Though the story centers on the rivalry between the two brothers, it also reflects the ambitions of their father, a millionaire co-founder of the American Communist Party; his suffragist wife Eva; and Eva's son Eddie, a professional labor organizer and committed defender of workers' rights. Spread across 50 years of history, the scene ranges from the mining camps of Siberia to the opulent mansions of post-revolutionary Moscow, from the political turmoil of New York in the early years of the century to the corporate affluence of postwar America.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

The troubled protagonist of this intelligent, straightforward coming-of-age story is 16-year-old Jake Paine, the only son of a depressive and lithium-dependent Vietnam vet. Jake's life was fundamentally changed when, at age six, he witnessed his mother's death in a car accident. Although his father remarries and has another child, the father is never able to regain his center, and Jake himself, unwelcome in the new family, becomes a petty thief and troublemaker. Threatened with being sent away, Jake escapes to New York City, where he lives on the streets. But he becomes an unlikely hero when he protects a mentally unstable woman from an attack in the subway. The incident results in his simultaneous discovery by a writer who wants to tell his story, and by authorities, who want him out of their jurisdiction. Jake is quickly returned to his hometown of New Hope, Pa., where he falls easily into his old patterns, though now he is interviewed periodically by the writer, a young woman who fascinates Jake as much as he fascinates her. Meanwhile, his father sinks deeper into depression, reading obsessively and freeing animals from a pet store, proving his own dictum, "Going from order to disorder is always easy in this world [but] going from disorder to order is impossible." A sudden but seemingly unavoidable tragedy forces the family to finally drop its pretenses and split up. Harrar's realistic and gritty debut novel doesn't sugarcoat the life of a misunderstood boy, but neither does it deny Jake the possibility of redemption. Harrar keenly describes not only Jake's limited options, but also his unquenched hopes for a better life. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Jake Paine is a 16-year-old juvenile delinquent who can't stop running away from home. When Jake was six years old, his mother died right beside him and his father in a car accident. Here, Jake returns to his hometown of New Hope, PA, where everyone, except his depressed father and half sister, hates him because of his criminal past. Although Harrar presents a teen who continues to break the law, readers will be drawn to the compassionate and extremely sharp young man. Other troubled characters, such as Jake's stepmother, Jenny, and Jake's good friend, Frank, are equally compelling. The cynical conversations between Jake and his father are also interesting. Throughout this first novel, readers will wonder what will happen to these characters and won't be disappointed at the outcome. Recommended for most fiction collections.ÄAmanda Fung, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Fierce sibling rivalry and family discord are posed against the backdrop of Communist politics in this novel that moves between the U.S. and Russia from the 1920s through the 1970s. At 19, Victor Faust very reluctantly joins his older brother Manny in a journey to the newly formed Soviet Union to start a family business and, ostensibly, support economic development in Russia. But cagey Manny has strictly capitalist visions and manages to use the intrigues of party and business politics and their father's reputation as a doctor and major supporter of the party in the U.S to build a strong family enterprise. Victor, who had intended to pursue a career as a actor, goes along with the family business and ideology, losing his first love to the lethal politics of the budding USSR and eventually losing his family when he returns to the U.S. 10 years later. Cook interestingly situates Victor's first-person account of a volatile family, driven by ambition and ideology, amidst the volatile politics of the USSR. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Spanning 60 years, Cook's exposition-heavy first novel begins in 1922, when brash New Yorker Manny Faust persuades his pliant younger brother, 19-year-old Victor, to quit college, abandon his dreams of acting and join him in a new business in the fledgling Soviet Union. Victor complies, establishing a pattern of submission and complacency that will haunt him throughout this heavy-handed saga. In Russia, the brothers revive a failing platinum mine, foray into money laundering and launch a shady import-export operation. Victor has a good head for business, and grotesquely ambitious Manny consistently exploits that talentÄfirst in Moscow and, later, back in the States, where the Fausts return after Stalin assumes power. With his eventual leadership of Pacific Petroleum, and his substantial art collection, Manny is clearly modeled after Occidental Petroleum's Armand Hammer (who did, in fact, have a younger brother named Victor). Given recent revelations about Hammer and espionage, the parallel might have yielded rich plot twists, but Cook's awkward prose fails to enliven even the myriad love episodes. Victor is a tedious narrator who frequently, and frustratingly, loses track of his story: describing his daughters' childhoods, he writes, "And yet, as with so much from those days, I can't quite remember them. The outline is there, but the emotion I felt remains invisible." There are some satisfying, if obvious, scenes showing the futility of a utopian society: in Russia, as elsewhere, people lust for money and power. But this is an oddly sterile novel. Notwithstanding the heavy-handed symbolism of the name "Faust," there's none of the implied battle between good and evil. The outline is there, but the emotions remain invisible. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved