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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Boy's Life--a book review

A few months ago my Aunt Becky recommended a book to me, Boy's Life by Robert McCammon. I popped over to (click here to buy the book) and bought it on sale for $2.99. Definitely a bargain. As I was reading it I made a mental note to thank my aunt, which I did. Then I made a mental note to recommend it to others, which I didn't, because by the end I decided that I had to push this book harder than a blurt on Facebook.

So I will link to this review from Facebook, where I will post a much, much shorter review and Amazon link.

But for you, my loyal Roblog readers, an excerpt. This is the last page of the prologue. The narrator is talking about his home town of Zephyr, Alabama.

          We had a dark queen who was one hundred and six years old. We had a gunfighter who saved the life of Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral. We had a monster in the river, and a secret in the lake. We had a ghost that haunted the road behind the wheel of a black dragster with flames on the hood. We had a Gabriel and a Lucifer, and a rebel that rose from the dead. We had an alien invader, a boy with a perfect arm, and we had a dinosaur loose on Merchants Street.
          It was a magic place.
          In me are the memories of a boy's life, spent in that realm of enchantments.
          I remember.
          These are the things I want to tell you.

I love this introduction: It freely gives away massively tantalizing hints without spoiling a bit of the story, and let's you know that the writing will be so rich and succulent that you will feel like licking your fingers after you put the book down.

There is something about his storytelling that reminds me of Stephen King, though with a much lower fatality rate. McCammon paints lovely, believable pictures quickly and efficiently, but not so sketchily that you get confused. As you can see above, there are times when he waxes lyrical, almost poetic, but with none of the pretension of poetry.

McCammon has a large body of work available in electronic form, so I can buy them easily for my Kindle, but I'm not going to rush into them: I want to take my time to digest each one, like a fine meal. You don't go out for an expensive steak when you had a Chinese buffet for lunch, and there are some bits of Boy's Life that will stay with me for years: the first day of summer vacation, the narrow escapes, the release from pain carried for so long.

This book reads like a memoir, but with elements of fantasy expertly woven in. It made me wonder if perhaps my childhood held similar miracles and terrors, memories later driven out and replaced by sitcom memories, long days in boring classrooms, the only magic left restricted to the silver screen.

Last summer I watched the movie "Selma" on t.v. Maxine watched some of it with me, and we had a couple of conversations about racism, and why someone would blow up a church, killing four little girls. My kids are aware of what it means to be different from everyone else, but I am very grateful that they do not face challenges like those.

Boy's Life is set in the late 60s. The civil rights struggle and racism of that time infuse the whole story, sometimes fighting in the middle of the stage, sometimes scratching around the edges of the scenery, almost never completely out of sight. I was born in 1970, so I didn't witness that era, but books like this help me to wrap my brain around what it must have been like. Yes, it is fiction, and yes, the author is white. I would not count on a book like this as a primary source, but it adds another viewpoint to my limited vision of where the United States of America has been, and where it is going.

I should also note that Boy's Life won the 1992 World Fantasy Award for best novel. It does not feel like a 15-year-old book to me, but then again I didn't feel like a 46-year-old after reading it.

If you've read it, I'd love to hear what you thought in the comments. 

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A Brief Introduction

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