Rats Saw God is a Catcher in the Rye-esque coming of age novel about Steve York, a high school senior who ends up in his guidance counselor’s office trying to explain why he’s flunking out when his SAT scores are through the roof. The fact that he’s regularly stoned might also be a contributing factor, but in any case, Steve finds himself sitting in Mr. DeMouy being offered a cup of tea. DeMouy tells him that at the end of the semester he’ll be one English credit short. DeMouy makes him an offer: write 100 typed pages – about anything. If he does that, DeMouy will make sure Steve graduates.
When Mom and the astronaut called Sarah and me into our Cocoa Beach, Florida (see I Dream of Jeanie) dining room to tell us they were getting a divorce, I admit I was shocked. I suppose I should have seen it coming, but the warning signs had been such a part of the status quo.
Thus begins Steve’s paper. It’s the story of his junior year. After the divorce, he moves with his dad, “that barely animate statue,” to Houston and his sister, Sarah, twelve at the time, moves to San Diego with her mom. In the summer, they swapped. Steve and his father have an estranged relationship:
He would leave for work before I woke but would provide a list of chores by the sink, paper clipped to a ten-dollar bill, which was to provide me both lunch and dinner.
At school, Steve befriends Doug, a skateboarder, and that friendship leads him to Dub, and the people who eventually become GOD, the Grace Order of Dadaists. Dadaists, Steve explains ” were painters, writers, sculptors in the twenties who believed in art without coherent meaning. Nothing they did had to be justified. The more abstract, the weirder something was, the better.”
Rats Saw God is funny and smart and it is a delight to watch Steve try to figure out the world, even when he has to face the truth that sometimes people will disappoint you. Of course, sometimes they’ll surprise you, too.