Dracaena Marginata by Donald Greco


         The story begins in the 1950s, where we meet Sandy and Rigley, best friends who get into playful mischief, as most boys do. Sandy, the narrator, comes from a comfortable steelworker’s home and a loving environment. Rigley’s family is poorer and less nurturing—his mother a hypochondriac and father a drunk. To make matters more difficult, Rigley is mentally challenged. Time and maturity bring this fact to Sandy’s attention in his teenage years, but he chooses to never mention it. Instead, he makes a promise to himself to never let anything life throws at him and Rigley stand in the way of their bond; but life has a way of complicating childhood promises. Sandy serves overseas in the Vietnam War, then returns to college, and teaching, and finding the love of his life. But meanwhile Rigley’s mental deterioration continues. As Sandy’s world grows more complicated, Rigley’s becomes more simple and forlorn. Sandy struggles to find happiness and reconcile his own life with that of Rigley, the boy to whom he vowed eternal friendship.

Review  “An intense, uplifting third novel from Greco (Tommy the Quarterback, 2012, etc.) that maps an unlikely friendship as it confronts adulthood, prejudice and the mistreatment of the mentally ill.”