Saturday, July 26, 2008

Captures the Magic of Youth

Robert R. McCammon captivated millions of readers with his storytelling power in such bestsellers as Mine, Swan Song, and Stinger. Now he has created is tour de force: Boy's Life, a masterpiece of magic and mystery, of the splendors of growing up in a small town, and of the wonders beyond. Narrated by one of the most engaging young voices in modern fiction, Boy's Life takes us back to our own childhoods, when bicycles were enchanted steeds and anything was possible...

Zephyr, Alabama, has been an idyllic home for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson... a place where monsters swim in the belly of the river, and friends are forever. Then, on a cold spring morning in 1964, as Cory accompanies is father on his milk route, they see a car plunge into a lake some say is bottomless. A desperate rescue attempt brings Cory's father face-to-face with a vision that will haunt him: a murdered man, naked and beaten, handcuffed to the steering wheel, a copper wire knotted around his neck. As Cory struggles to understand the forces of good and evil at work in his hometown, from an ancient woman called the Lady who conjures snakes and hears the voices of the dead, to a violent clan of moonshiners, he realizes that not only his life but his father's sanity may hang in the balance...

Title: Boy’s Life
Author: Robert R. McCammon
Start & Finished: 4/5/08 - 4/6/08
Published: 1991
Publisher: Pocket Books
Pages: 608
Genre: Fiction-Fantasy, Mystery, Horror

Winner of the Bram Stoker and the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, retired author Robert R. McCammon’s “fictography” (a combination of fiction and biography) story Boy’s Life is one of his most acclaimed works. It is also one of his more controversial ones too since there was an attempted ban of it in 2006 but it failed once the author flew in to defend it himself.

When I had just started reading horror, I discovered a few of McCammon’s books and although I enjoyed them, I have a hard time remembering much about them today. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve matured or if this story in particular is just that good but I absolutely adored this book! I’m so glad that it was chosen as the book of the month in one of my online reading groups.

After finishing Boy’s Life, I was left with a feeling I don’t get very often: I just wanted to sit and savor this beautifully haunting (in all definitions of the word) story that McCammon had created. It had a wonderfully poetic Stephen King meets Ray Bradbury feel to it but there is uniqueness to the story as well. I think that if Mr. King had made his short story The Body (better known as the movie Stand by Me) into a full-length novel, he would have created something similar to this.

If I have one bad thing to say about this book it would be that I was able to figure out the mystery part, including the who and a little of the why a little too quickly but there were many other parts to the story so it didn’t matter as much. I especially loved the characters like The Lady, and the many varied adventures that Cory goes through during the course of the novel. From zombie dogs and river monsters to ghosts, bullies, floods, and many other things. Growing up in Zephyr, Alabama was quite an experience.

These are a couple of my favorite passages from Boy’s Life:

~ “I'd like to be everybody in the world," I said. "I'd like to live a million times." p. 11

~ 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. We need this illusion like a good night-light. The truth is more fearsome: we are as frail as young trees in tornadoes, and our beloved homes are one flood away from driftwood. We plant roots in trembling earth, we live where mountains rose and fell and prehistoric seas burned away in mist. We and the towns we have built are not permanent; the earth itself is a passing train. When you stand in muddy water that is rising toward your waist and you hear people shouting against the darkness and see figures struggling to hold back the currents that will not be denied, you realize the truth of it: we will not win but we cannot give up. p.72

~ My bike, old in the ways of a boy’s life long before it had reached my hands by merit of a flea market, was no longer a living thing. I felt it, as I sat there in the pouring rain. Whatever it is that gives a soul to an object made by the tools of man, it had cracked open and flown to the watery heavens. p. 57

~ Because Death cannot be known. It cannot be befriended. If Death were a boy, he would be a lonely figure, standing at the playground's edge while the air rippled with other children's laughter. If Death were a boy, he would walk alone. He would speak in a whisper and his eyes would be haunted by knowledge no human can bear. p.344
Author Website: Archived Interviews and a page about Boy’s Life
Wikipedia: Robert R. McCammon & Boy's Life


  1. excellent review Tink, it sounds like a really good read.

    I like how you say 'It had a wonderfully poetic Stephen King meets Ray Bradbury feel to it but there is uniqueness to the story as well'. Thats a good way to explain it. Now I want to read

  2. How funny you review this today. The one book I read in high school by this guy was The Wolf's Hour that I really enjoyed and I was just looking that book up yesterday. Odd.

    Like I said, I enjoyed Wolf's Hour, so I'm going to check out one of his other books next. Thanks for the review.

  3. I just love horror!

  4. Sounds fun. I don't read much horror unless you count urban fantasy (which I don't!) so may give this a go.



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