Sunday, April 8, 2012

Boy's Life

Boy's Life by Robert McCammon

If there's only one book by Robert McCammon that people have read, it's more than likely Boy's Life. It won the Bram Stoker Award in 1991 and in 1992 it won the World Fantasy Award for best novel. I've decided to label it as a fantasy book because of that distinction, but the fantasy aspects in the book are very subtle and secondary to the story.

I'll admit that I'm a late-comer to the McCammon party - the Matthew Corbett series being the books that introduced me to him, so I haven't read much of his early stuff. More often than not though, when I'd mention him to people, they'd bring up how much they enjoyed Boy's Life. So I had high expectations when I started this one. It didn't disappoint.

I decided to finally get around to reading it when I learned that he would be visiting Salt Lake for this year's Bram Stoker Awards ceremony. I attended an author panel/signing that he participated in one of the nights he was here and he mentioned the fact that Ray Bradbury was a big inspiration to him as a writer. His inspiration is very evident in Boy's Life. It reminded me a lot of two of my favorite Bradbury books: Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes. All three books resonated deeply with me. They each captured the essence of what it's like to be a young boy - the anguish of sitting through the final minutes of the last day of the school year, the camaraderie that exists with the other boys you hang out with, and the joys that come from that relatively carefree time.

Boy's Life takes place in rural Alabama in 1964, and begins with the witnessing of a murder. While riding along on his father's milk delivery route early one morning, Cory Mackenson and his dad are nearly run off the road when a car crosses in front of them and proceeds into Saxon's Lake. As the car begins to sink, Cory's father dives in to see if he can rescue the driver. When he gets to the car, his father discovers the corpse of a man - severely beaten, strangled with a piano wire, and handcuffed to the steering wheel. His father has time to recognize that the man isn't a resident of their small town and notices a distinctive tattoo on the man's arm before the car sinks in the rumored bottomless lake. While watching all this, Cory sees the outline of someone else at the scene and when he goes to investigate who it was, he discovers a bright green feather at the spot the person had been standing. That feather and tattoo are the first clues in a mystery that consumes both Cory and his father.

I really can't recommend this book enough. It's fantastically written. The story is excellent and should be enjoyed by anyone who reads it. Although the mystery behind the identities of the victim and his killer carries throughout the book's entirety, it's really secondary to the true appeal of the story - the experiences of a twelve-year-old boy that shape the man he will eventually become.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

1 comment:

  1. I read this book when I was a teen, great story, many memorable parts, but the part about the dog creeped me out in ways I don't want to remember and made me dread losing my own dogs.

    Loved the bicycle. I built my own bike from parts for the first time last year and memories of this book stirred while I was doing that as well.