Boy’s Life – Robert McCammon

Posted 8 June, 2009 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 33 Comments


Title: Boy’s Life
Author: Robert McCammon
Published: 1991 Pages: 578
Genre: Fiction (possibly mystery?)
Rating: 5/5

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

33 Responses to “Boy’s Life – Robert McCammon”

  1. This doesn’t sound like my normal type of book, but I might have to check it out anyway since your review was so glowing! And yay for 5 stars!

  2. Now that’s a positive review! I’ll see if my library has it, even though I’m a bit intimidated by the length just now.

    My favorite Southern literature book, also set in the 60s during integration is Anne Rivers Siddon’s Heartbreak Hotel. It takes place in a fictional Auburn, which may be why I love it so. I’ve read it 4 or 5 times. LOVE.

  3. My library has it on the shelf in large print. Just how thick a book would that be, do you think?

    Also, forgot to ask, does it say where in Alabama Zephyr is supposed to be?

  4. Sounds interesting. It would be interesting to read it, Stand by Me and The Sandlot one after the other to compare them.

    So many books, so little time…

  5. Wow, great review! Like others, it doesn’t necessarily sound like something I would have picked up on my own, but after reading your review I will have to seriously consider giving it a try!

  6. Ohhhhhh! I have this on my TBR List and have forgotten all about it. Wowsers – a 5/5! I’m feeling anxious now because I would love to get to this sooner rather than later, but there is just not enough time for sooooooo many books. I’m grateful for the reminder.

  7. I can’t remember which McCammon books I read ever so long ago, but I’ve always remembered him as an author I really liked. I may have to check back in with him! :-)


  8. I read Swan Song many moons ago, but I don’t think I ever read this one (of course, with a review like that I think I would remember!)

    *Sigh* Guess this is another one to add the the TBR.

  9. cj

    Oh! Oh! Oh! Boy’s Life!

    Dang. Now you’ve gone and made me want to re-read it.

    Not that it’s a bad thing!

    Thanks for the link and I’ll throw my recommendation out there again. It’s an amazing book. Absolutely amazing. McCammon had me hooked literally by page two.

    Great review, Trish.


  10. I haven’t heard of this one before, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have picked it up from the cover alone. I’m adding it to my list right now.

  11. *Amanda – I don’t normally read mystery type books, but this one was really good. The type of book you think would make a great movie until you realize they’d have to leave so much out.

    *Lisa – My copy is a trade paperback, so my coworkers who got library copies only had to read 440 pages. Not sure how much the large print would be—probably in between? Not sure where Zephyr is, but I think it is probably kind of close to Birmingham. You should definitely read this one, Lisa!

    *BlackSheep – I don’t know if Sandlot is a book or not, but Stand by Me is based on Stephen King’s novella The Body (haven’t read it). There are so many books, but I’m glad I made time for this one.

    *Melody – If you liked southern literature, definitely give this one a try. It was a very entertaining read.

    *Melissa – It’s funny because my coworker picked this particular book because it was so highly rated in Amazon—she didn’t know anything else about it. I hope you like it!

    *Joy – Oh read this one soon so I can know what you think! Put all those other books aside and make room. :P Don’t you wish it were that easy?

    *Bermuda – I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this book! Glad you loved it also.

    *Danielle – Hello to you, too! I hope you’re able to get to this one—it really is a great read.

    *Lezlie – Other than Boy’s Life I haven’t heard much about his books, but I’ll definitely have you look into a few! If you’ve liked this other books and haven’t read this one yet, I hope you will read it.

    *Stephanie – I think you’d really like this book a lot—I hope you get a chance to read it.

    *CJ – I’m so glad that you talked this one up when you read it because I was able to remember you really liking it and pushed for this to be our club choice. It’s definitely one I’ll re-read one day.

    *Alyce – The cover isn’t terribly appealing, I admit, but the book is really wonderful. I bet you can easily find a used copy.

  12. Wow! What you said the other day left me intrigued, but after this review, how can I not pick it up? A coming of age story, racism and civil rights, good writing, a story that is magical and tender and touching (I love how you said that)…what’s not to love?

  13. Wow Trish, this book sounds amazing. So amazing I think I might even order it-it’s a chunkster though. lol. Great review and I’m so glad you found a book that made you feel so strongly. I love the ones like that!

  14. I came across your blog awhile back and am an avid reader, so I added you to my sidebar of reading blogs I follow.

    I use sitemeter and IP2map. I guess I come from a family of competitors, so I admit I do like to see how many people read my blog. Mostly, though, like some of the others here, I write my blog for my family (all out of town) to keep up to date with our lives. Since people rarely comment, I am thrilled when anyone says even “nice picture” or something! Ha!

  15. *Dar – I really hope you like it! I always worry that I overhype a book, but it doesn’t happen too often that I am swept away as much as I was with this one.

    *Missy – I’ll definitely be reading this one again and passing it on to others. Glad you loved it too!

    *Corinne – LOL–there aren’t very mentions of this one around on the blogosphere, probably since it is older. If not for book club, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. It is really good though!

    *Lynne – Interesting that you write your blog for your family. I wrote a post a few weeks back about discussing blogging with people you know in real life and an overwhelming amount of people said they didn’t talk about their blogs with other people (myself included…although I’ll mention it here and there to my parents, but they aren’t interested in the least). Seeing how many people read your blog is interesting, but it’s too easy to get caught up in it, I think. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    *Veens – I hope you can find this one–it was a really fun read–definitely great for the summer.

  16. I read about 250 pages of the large print version on Friday. So far I’m enjoying it but I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.

  17. Wasn’t this wonderful? I read it last year, I think, and fell in love with it. I thought he wrote like Stephen King without the gory horror. It was lovely, every page of it. I’m planning on reading more of him in the future. So, so glad to see others enjoying this one as much as I did! :)

  18. I read this book when my son was small (16 years ago?!) and I LOVED IT as you did. It’s just a beautiful book, and now you’ve got me all in the mood to read it again.

  19. *Lisa – I hope you continue to enjoy it! It gets better as you get further in.

    *Stephanie – I’m too timid to try Stephen King, but I’ve heard them compared before. Have you read anything else by McCammon?

    *Bellezza – This is definitely one that I’d love to read again in a few years–such a magical story. Have you read any of his other works?

  20. Thanks for such an awesome review! I have this book but haven’t read it yet. I have read a bunch of other McCammon books – Swan Song being a fave. I think Boy’s Life will be perfect for the cottage this summer :)

  21. Boy’s Life is one of the best fiction books I have ever read. Having grown up in a small town in the south (mine was in Georgia), I felt at home in Zephyr. McCammon captured brilliantly what life in that environment is all about. It is magical and in my own writings I hope to take people into my town to meet the locals. Maybe they will want to stay, in the same way I wanted to settle in Zephyr. Boy’s Life is time well spent. I have given copies away, loaned it out until the cover was gone, and I now I have a copy next to my bed. When I want to escape, I simply read the opening pages and I remember…simply remember.

  22. *Joanne – Boy’s Life is a perfect summer read–sorry to comment back so late now that summer is almost over. I hope you can get to it!

    *Jonathon – Thanks so much for coming by. I absolutely agree that McCammon did a great job of capturing the environment not only of a small time but also the era. I passed this one to my dad who grew up during the 60s and he felt very much at home in the book as well despite having grown up in Cananda. It really is a great book, huh?

  23. Anonymous

    It is rather interesting for me to read the blog. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.