I like Robert McCammon’s books, although I wouldn’t call myself a fan. The exception if Boy’s Life. I’ve probably read this book four times now, and I rarely read a book more than once because I have so many of them in my “To Read” pile. There’s something magical about Boy’s Life, though.
When I read it the first time, I thought that it would be a horror novel as most of McCammon’s novels are. However, while there are some scary moments in the book, by and large, it is a coming-of-age story unlike any other.
The story centers around Cory Jay Mackenson who lives in the small Alabama town of Zephyr in the 1960’s. The books is essentially a series of vignettes about his life and the unusual happenings in the town. There’s bootleggers, water monsters unleashed by a flood, a dog that won’t die because it is too loved, and an ancient dinosaur in a carnival sideshow.
All of these stories are held loosely together with a mystery. Cory and his father see a car go off the road and into the town lake, which is said to be bottomless. Cory’s father dives into the lake to help and sees a naked corpse handcuffed to the steering wheel. It’s a sight that haunts him.
The story is beautifully written. If there is one thing wrong with it, it’s that I found the subplots vastly more interesting than what was supposed to be the main story.
Although my childhood was ten years later, I can still see elements of it in McCammon’s storytelling. He tells a beautiful story through the eyes of a young boy. It has the sense of wonder that children experience.
While To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful coming-of-age story that is accurate and believable, Boy’s Life captures the magic of a young boy’s life.
I remember building forts and fighting fake monsters and bad guys. I remember my friends and I riding bikes, racing go-karts, and exploring the woods behind where I lived. We had once place where we would play and pretend that it was another world.
When I read Boy’s Life, I think back on my childhood and think that if what I used to imagine had been real, it would have been a lot like Boy’s Life.
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