Boy’s Life is about Cory Mackenson, the southern town of Zephyr and the magic of every day life.
We had a monster in the river, and a secret in the lake. We had a ghost that haunted the road behind the wheel of a black dragster with flames on the hood. We had a Gabriel and a Lucifer, and a rebel that rose from the dead. We had an alien invader, a boy with a perfect arm, and we had a dinosaur loose on Merchants Street. It was a magic place.” pg 10, ebook.
The story begins with a death and a mystery. “On that morning before the sun, as I sat eating my breakfast with my dad and mom in our house on Hilltop Street, the year was 1964. There were great changes in the winds of earth, things of which I was unaware.” pg 15.
After witnessing something terrible sinking into the lake, Cory sets about discovering what or who put it there.
The trauma is almost too much for Cory’s father to bear. “Whoever did it had to be a local. Had to be. … It might be somebody who sits on our pew at church. Somebody we buy groceries or clothes from. Somebody we’ve known all our lives… or thought we knew. That scares me like I’ve never been scared before.” pg 35, ebook.
But this book is about more than just the central mystery. It is also about the community of Zephyr and the relationships between the people who live there.
There is a racial divide in the town. When the river overflows its banks, the white and black communities come together to prevent disaster. “There is something about nature out of control that touches a primal terror. We are used to believing that we’re the masters of our domain, and that God has given us this earth to rule over. … The truth is more fearsome: we are as frail as young trees in tornadoes, and our beloved homes are one flood away from driftwood.” pg 97, ebook.
Boy’s Life also examines coming-of-age issues like bullies, over-bearing parents, and accepting the realities of old age and death. “But I’ll tell you a secret, Cory. Want to hear it?” I nodded. “No one,” Mrs. Neville whispered, “ever grows up. … They may look grown-up but it’s a disguise. It’s just the clay of time. Men and women are still children deep in their hearts.” pg 221, ebook.
I loved this book. It is a far-reaching tale made for winter nights, to be read with a hot drink in your hand and a warm blanket on your lap.
It vaguely reminded me of The Help because of its southern location, the racial issues and some of the mystery elements. But really, Boy’s Life stands on its own.
Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction with a touch of magic and mystery.