Review: Boy’s Life, By Robert McCammon by From Right 2 Left

Review: Boy’s Life, By Robert McCammon

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When I read the final line of Boy’s Life, my heart is sad. The images in the epilogue are concrete, but the interpretation, as should be, lies in the experience of the reader. One thing is clear: there is a haunting fear that lies muted in the hearts of any person who has realized that time can never run backward, that experiences are unique and that moments are fleeting. Once we realize these things, we can no longer be the adults we had grown into, because we are forever affected by these life altering revelations.

Few are lucky as the protagonist in Boy’s Life. Cory is a pre-teen boy who balances on the precipice of the flagrant aliveness of youth and the loss of that transient magic. His experiences in the small town of Zephyr over the course of a year act as the world’s hand plucking petals of innocence from his soul one fresh leaf at a time. But oh how magical are these vignettes, expertly woven and colored to support the overarching mystery. Cory is lucky because he is already sensitive to the magic that is in his town. He knows he must enjoy it before it becomes unknowable to him. With age comes knowledge and with knowledge comes an unexpected melancholy that the world isn’t as magical as we were led to believe. The world is not a place where anything is possible.

The brilliance of Boy’s Life is that, just as adulthood casts a shadow over the waning years of childhood, the reader sullenly awaits the moment when the realities of life will change Cory forever. However, just as in life, change is gradual and comes in small, subtle flavors. The author, in the beginning, beautifully speaks of moments when even adults can recapture the magic of youth, when one weeps over a movie or catches the brilliance of dust dancing in a brush of sunlight. Every descriptive stroke of the pen, such as the visuals for the overwhelming freedom that arrives on the back of the first afternoon after school lets out for the summer, serve the purpose of capturing the reader in this boy’s world, this boy’s life. Many times while reading I would feel a shiver somewhere within me, enough to jar me out of the story, and only now do I realize it was that feeling of magic of which the author speaks. This book, itself, is a portal to that magic world.

Reviews online indicate the book is a cross-generational bestseller. For the older, such as myself, the book brings us back to the world we long for. Ironically, it allows us to recapture the past, even though that sadness at the end tells us we cannot. But for the young, it reminds them to cherish boyhood, enjoy the loyalty of a dog, the freedom of a bike, the comfort of parents and home. I wish I had these instructions during my own childhood. Every adult probably feels the same.

Rarely do I read a book and immediately want to start over at the beginning and relive the words of the author. Typically, if I deem a book worthy to actually purchase in non-digital format, it is because I have high expectations that I will want to return to it’s imaginative world again. In reality, my own world tends to overwhelm my time and I am lucky to find time to read something new on my reading list, let alone revisit old characters and moralistic dilemmas, and that beloved book that moved me so sits on a shelf, forgotten amongst others, desperate to come alive again as it does whenever a new mind gives the words form.

As soon as I finished Boy’s Life, I sat and thought about the sadness. And yet, I immediately turned back to my favorite passages, the ones that had given me chills. I didn’t even have to search for them as my fingers instinctively turned the pages. And I’ve since read them through again. Ironically, the magic of these moments pushes aside the sadness. And it’s a wonderful feeling to be young again.

 

 

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