Boy’s Life follows the adventures told through the eyes Cory Mackenson in the small town of Zephyr, Alabama in the 1960’s. His portrayal of adolescence focuses not so much on the loss of innocence but the loss of magical imagination and the inevitable of growing old.
Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life is a brilliant expose of first person persona from twelve year old Cory Mackenson and all of the thrill, excitement, action and adventure that exists within a boy’s makeup. There’s very little mystery as to why this novel was awarded The World Fantasy Award for best novel in 1992. To some the 542 pages may be staggering, yet the action moves swiftly and tone is engaging of a truly gifted story teller. McCammon rarely refers to himself as an author or a writer, more aptly a story teller. One cannot deny this claim the enchantment and captivating begins on page one seemingly on a subconscious level as word after word and page after page is devoured with insatiable intrigue.
At first glance the setting appears to take place in simpler time. In comparison to today’s society this may be true on countless levels. There are some very predominant themes that take place in the southern town in the early 60’s. A great deal of underlining conflict arises as a result of the Civil Rights Movement, the Klu Klux Klan and the segregation of the black community as well.
Our story begins heavily on the action side as Cory is out with his father Tom, the town’s milkman on their daily, morning route. Father and son witness the unspeakable, a car plummets straight off a cliff into Saxon’s Lake engulfed into the frigid black abyss. Tom dives in to save the driver only to realize the man behind the wheel is in actuality a murder victim, bludgeoned to death and handcuffed to the steering wheel. Narrowly escaping with his own life, Mr. Mackenson is haunted with the images of drowning and the memory consumes him. While evidently there is a murderer on the loose on the streets of the sleepy town of Zephyr, the tale progresses with one ethereal, macabre circumstance after another.
Banded with childhood comrades Davy Ray, Johnny and Ben the fab four are enthralled with countless summertime odysseys. A town flood threatens the very welfare of the citizens of Zephyr as well as the closest border town. Cory narrowly escapes the clutches of Old Moses, a cat fish that is according to town folklore is as big as a bull shark. The clan also is constantly on the run from Gordo and Gotho Branlin the town’s citizen bullies that always give them a run for their money. They play baseball, go to Saturday afternoon matinees, the black and white creature features that epitomized drive inn classics. They went to a carnival where a deformed rhinoceros is passed off as an ancient dinosaur from the lost world. Davy Ray is mortified by the treatment of the beast and secretly returns after hours with a set of bolt cutters. The mastodon escapes its captivity and wreaks havoc on the town causing around ten thousand dollars damage to nearby store fronts and parked cars. The foursome tangle with the Blaylocks; a family comparable to the mob running an illegal distillery, casino and whorehouse just to name a few brushes with the law and witness numerous things a child should not be privy to. They meet Nemo Curliss a fragile new comer, a misfit by nature with an over protective mother and a lisp. Nemo has a seemingly supernatural ability to throw a ball harder, faster and further than many of the major league players at the time.
As one adventure eclipses into the next a very deep fear continues manifest that there is indeed a murderer in the midst of Zephyr, a stranger among them.
The final act reprises the same heart pounding action as the novel had begun with. McCammon sews all of the essential fabrics together to make one epic of a grand tale. His tone is infectious. The characters are larger than life, yet at the same time one and the same as your average Joe residing in the next concession over in your anywhere small town USA. Emotions run deep in an emotional fuelled era and personify a genuine, touching coming of age tale.
One can attest to a true captivating, imagination altering novel when approaching the final pages a certain sense of sorrow begins to arise. I find this feeling with virtually every McCammon book I’ve delved into, a sadness that arises admitting the inevitable end is just around the corner.
If you read one book only for the remainder of 2012 I highly recommend Boy’s Life. It may not change your life in the same fashion as it had mine. I guarantee you’ll find something once again that you wish you’d never lost.
Book Review: Boy’s Life – Author Robert R. McCammon