Saturday, 30 June 2018

Book Review: Boy's Life by Robert McCammon

Zephyr, Alabama, is an idyllic hometown for eleven-year-old, Cory Mackenson - a place where monsters swim the river and friends are forever.

"See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our ages. Told to grow up, for God's sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they'd allowed to wither in themselves."

If you haven't read Boy's Life yet, if you don't even have a copy, drop everything you're doing and get a copy and read it. It's not everyday when a book comes along and burrows itself into your heart and soul. Stephen King couldn't have put it better when he said "Books are a uniquely portable magic" and this book IS magic. It's right in there, glittering between the pages.

Nothing I have read has so accurately and poignantly portrayed growing up. There's (hopefully) lots of joy and happiness and magic dispersed throughout your younger years, but unfortunately there can also be some heartbreak and loss, and McCammon beautifully presents all these different emotions seamlessly.

Cory's coming-of-age tale is intertwined with the unravelling of the mystery of a dead body in his small town. The two different threads are woven together so intricately and McCammon does an incredible job of moving both storylines along at a pace that feels natural. Boy's Life is not ABOUT the mystery, but it's about Cory as an adult looking back at the magical place where he grew up. McCammon's writing itself is some of the best I've ever had the pleasure of reading, and he manages to cover so many themes with such ease - childhood, realism, racism, fantasy, death - I am truly in awe.

You will laugh and you will undoubtedly cry (unless you have a cold black stone residing in your chest instead of a heart). And when I say cry, I mean UGLY cry. There's no beautiful solitary tear rolling down the cheek. There is full-on sobbing. There was a particular scene towards the end involving Cory's father that was really personal for me and what I took away from it will stay with me forever.

Not only one of my favourite books of 2018, but one of the best books I've read in my life.



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