I don’t have a Sunday Salon post for today and if you’ve wondered where I’ve been this past week, I’ve been hiding away in the small town of Zephyr Alabama in 1964–quickly turning the pages of Boy’s Life every spare minute I had. I LOVED this book, so prepare yourself for a gush-fest.
When my coworker was trying to decide on a book for June’s meeting, she mentioned Boy’s Life and I immediately thought of CJ’s review from over a year ago and told her–Yes! Pick that book! Within the first few chapters of the book, I knew that I was going to love this book and I couldn’t be more thrilled that my prediction was right (what’s worse than thinking you’re going to love a book and then it falling flat?).
Boy’s Life is a coming of age story, and the story begins when eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson and his father witness a truck plow right into Saxon’s Lake. The truck contains a naked man beaten, strangled, and handcuffed to the steering wheel. Cory’s father dives into the lake to help free the man, but it is no use and man and his secret sink to the bottom of Saxon’s Lake. The things that Cory witness that morning with his father and events that occur thereafter help shape him into a young man, but although the mystery of the murder is a prevalent thread throughout the book, there is so much more to Boy’s Life:
“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” (4).
In short, Boy’s Life has it all–mystery and magic, things that will make you laugh and things that will make you cry, remembrance of a time when life was so much simpler but in many ways more complicated. Being set in Alabama during the 1960s, racism and civil rights are constant themes in the book and there are many moments where I had chills sent up my spine. Also consistent with southern fiction is the level of storytelling. Through Cory’s eyes, McCammon has painted such a vivid image of what it was like growing up in the town of Zephyr that I felt I was right there with Cory and his friends. I was reminded of a cross between The Sandlot and Stand By Me (the movies)–a group of boys getting themselves into trouble, the things they encounter that could only be tall tales, a nostalgia for a time long passed.
If I let myself this would be a rather long review of just positive features, and I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because the mystery is so much of the fun in reading this book. There really isn’t anything that I wish was different about this book. The writing is descriptive and clear, the dialogue is believable and entertaining, the plot is magical and tender and touching. Through the narrative I was transported decades into the past and loved every minute I spent in this small southern town. It is the perfect book for summer vacation or a perfect book to curl up with in the cold winter months.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is the best book I’ve read this year and one that I will continue think back on fondly. I can’t remember the last time I read a book where I was so absolutely absorbed that I felt compelled to read “just one more chapter” having to know what happens next. I couldn’t wait to talk about the happenings in the book with my coworkers the next morning. I laughed out loud and I cried when the book was over. I will definitely be keeping this one on the shelf and revisiting time and again.
Finished: June 7, 2009 #28