Friday, June 6, 2008

Review: Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life

In a conversation about favorite authors with some friends last night, Robert R. McCammon came up.

We discussed our love for his Blue World, and how we'd read Swan Song on the heels of The Stand, which made us love it all the more. We talked about how Usher's Passing was a wonderful, creepy follow-up to Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," and about McCammon's general awesomeness.

But the book of his I love the very most, the one I have that is so tattered and dog-eared that it's held together by a rubber band, is Boy's Life.

Let's see if I can remember my handselling pitch: It's about a boy and his friends, growing up in a small town in 1960s Alabama. It's a coming-of-age story, and a murder mystery, and a story of how a family deals with a changing world. It's about a storyteller, and magic, bike rides and summertime, a carnival and a monster, the Beach Boys and ghosts, the loyalty of dogs, a single green feather, a boy with a perfect arm, and the history of a black arrowhead.

I cry every time I read it. Twice.

I could, if you asked me to right now, recite the poem at the beginning of the book. There are phrases from it that I'll never forget, and scenes that I can close my eyes and envision.

It's about friendship, and families, and how even the people you love the most have their flaws, and you love them anyway.

In McCammon's own words:

I say Boy's Life is not about lost innocence, because I believe we all maintain the pool of innocence and wonder inside us no matter how far we get away from our childhood. I believe this pool can be revisited, and we can immerse ourselves in its healing water if we dare to take the risk of knowing again the children we used to be. This is a risky thing, because once we look back---once we let that wonderful pool take us in again---we may not ever fully return to being the adults we are now.

Boy's Life, like The Stand, is one of the books I returned to every summer for several years. It's been a long while since I've revisited either of those worlds, my summers having been swallowed up by other things these past few years. But I'm feeling that ache again, for both of them. I think it's long past time for the rereads.

And, because my tattered old copy might not be able to withstand another reading, Pocket Books is reissuing Boy's Life in trade paperback in July. Excellent timing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also enjoyed Boy's Life - a lovely story, whimsical and full of magic. It is one of those rare books that is capable of making me laugh out loud and cry. Have you read Bradbury's Dandelion Wine or Leif Enger's Peace Like a River? Both unique and nostalgic reads for everyone, particularly small town boys. I am looking for similar coming of age novels / stories. For whatever reason, they seem to be the ones I enjoy most. I will return to Boy's Life as well.