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Forty-five-year-old Bruce Duffy is in touch with his inner child, a talent that has made the Silver Spring, Md., writer’s new novel, Last Comes the Egg, a critical fave. By filling in a standard road-movie outline with the strikingly poetic—not to mention vulgar and sophomoric—musings of 12-year-old runaway Frank Dougherty, Duffy has tapped into a tired fiction formula with a shiny new derrick.

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“When I first started writing the book, the tone was very memoiristic….I needed to get beyond the details of my own particular life to get to something much deeper,” says Duffy, who now has two children of his own but still admits proudly to streaks of youthful immaturity. “[When Frank’s] mother dies [at the beginning of the novel]…everything in his life is exposed. He can see who his parents are and all the ways adults lie to protect him. The whole veil of life comes down….I really wanted to bring the reader into the eye of the tornado of childhood…with the language squishing and squirting in your eye, alternating between rage and humor. I wanted this novel to be emotionally messy.”

And messy it is, as Frank—whose father has quickly found a bimbette girlfriend after his wife’s death—joins two other troubled juveniles for a serio-comic trip through ’60s Middle America. Duffy claims that the book steers relatively clear of autobiographical elements, but at least one is hard to ignore: At age 11, Duffy also lost his mother, from a botched appendectomy dictated by the “hygienicism of the ’50s and ’60s.” He adds that if she had lived, he might never have become a writer. “When my mother died, it was a complete betrayal of everything I knew of life. My mother had done an amazing thing: My mother had died. It just didn’t happen back then….I became an adult much faster than the other kids. It became that nothing could be hidden from me.”—Sean Daly

Duffy will read from Last Comes the Egg Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at Borders, 11301 Rockville Pike, Rockville. (301) 816-1067.