12 May 2016

Books: Boy's Life By Robert McCammon (1992)

I’ve kind of always thought that Robert McCammon’s 1992 novel Boy’s Life was a variation on Stephen King’s 1986 classic It (as I felt his Swan Song may have been a reworking of The Stand). But to my surprise, the book has little to do with that novel, beyond the era it is set (1964 instead of the late 50s). And while there are monsters here, they are of the more human variety, but there is more than a whiff of the supernatural as well.

“Zephyr, Alabama, is an idyllic hometown for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson—a place where monsters swim the river deep and friends are forever. Then, one cold spring morning, Cory and his father witness a car plunge into a lake—and a desperate rescue attempt brings his father face-to-face with a terrible vision of death that will haunt him forever.  As Cory struggles to understand his father’s pain, his eyes are slowly opened to the forces of good and evil that are manifested in Zephyr. From an ancient, mystical woman who can hear the dead and bewitch the living, to a violent clan of moonshiners, Cory must confront the secrets that hide in the shadows of his hometown—for his father’s sanity and his own life hang in the balance.”

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of the King short story The Body (which became the film Stand By Me), with its sort episodic look at small town life a few months after the Kennedy assassination. And Cory’s search to find the secret of the dead man in the lake takes on a more serious route, with some hair-raising adventures both by himself and with his boyhood friends.

So while there are tinges of the supernatural within, the book plays out like a typical coming of age story, which also has a murder mystery and a heart pumping thriller at its center. It’s a well-written valentine to growing up before the world really changed in the mid 1960s, when milkmen were facing extinction due to huge grocery stores coming in with their plastic jugs instead of glass. 

A bit over-long, which I seem to comment on a lot, but I’m still glad I found this book not to be what I thought. And it proves that eventually I will get to the books I’ve always wanted to read, even if it took 24 years to do it. It also means, sadly, I’ll never live to read them all.

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