Jo Anne B's Reviews > Boy's Life

Boy's Life by Robert McCammon
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Jan 14, 12

Read in December, 2011

This is the second book I have read by Robert McCammon and I am once again amazed at the masterpieces he can create. His writing conjures up so much emotion and nostalgia that you can’t help but step back and think about your own life and feel happy remembering your past. But then you feel sad because you begin to realize all that we have lost as adults inevitably changed by the passing of time. I think that is McCammon’s purpose for writing books as an author.

He begins Boy’s Life with the adult version of the boy recalling his adventures during the summer of 1964 when he was twelve years old in his hometown Zephyr in southern Alabama. This adult version of Cory tells the reader:
“These memories of who I was and where I lived are important to me. They make up a large part of who I’m going to be when my journey winds down. I need the memory of magic if I am ever going to conjure magic again. I need to know and remember, and I want to tell you. Zephyr was a magic place. Spirits walked in the moonlight. We had a dark queen who was one hundred six years old. We had a gunfighter who saved the life of Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral. 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 Merchant’s street. It was a magic place. In me are the memories of a boy’s life, spent in that realm of enchantments. I remember. These are the things I want to tell you.”

There seems to be a theme in McCammon’s books that as we get older, we lose the magical way of looking at the world that we have when we are kids. “Don’t be in a hurry to grow up. Hold on to being a boy as long as you can, because once you lose that magic, you’re always begging to find it again.” McCammon does a superb job telling the story as a twelve year old would that you can’t always tell what’s vivid imagination or reality. That is the charm of being young, life is a fantasy and dreams can come true. But “this rough, old world wants children to be miniature adults, devoid of charm and magic and the beauty of innocence.”

McCammon seems to want us to never forget the gift of being young and free. To fight the world’s forces that makes us adults. “No one 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 in their hearts. They still would like to jump and play, but that heavy clay won’t let them. They’d like to shake off every chain the world’s put on them, take off their watches and neckties and Sunday shoes if just for one day. They’d like to feel free, and know that there’s a momma and daddy at home who’ll take care of things and love them no matter what. Even behind the face of the meanest man in the world is a scared little boy trying to wedge himself into a corner where he can’t be hurt. I have seen plenty of boys grow into men, Cory, and I want to say remember.”

In that summer of 1964, a mysterious event occurs that profoundly affects the town and Cory’s father. In his endeavors, Cory uses his observant skills to put the pieces together to help solve this mystery. His summer is his coming of age tale filled with boyhood camaraderie, lots of adventure, but also glimpses into the difficult challenges that adults face like losing their jobs and making sacrifices. Cory tells his Dad, “I don’t think anybody gives you peace. I think you have to fight for it, whether you want to or not.” Pretty profound for a 12 year old boy. He was already seeing the world for what it was- harsh and unforgiving.

McCammon references more than once in this book that the past changes and we have to know our place or else we won’t know our place in the future. “You can’t know where you’re going until you figure out where you’ve been. Everybody needs to know where they’ve been, it seems to me. Seems to me if a person loses the past, he can’t find the future either. I want ‘em to remember where they came from and say to themselves ‘Look what I’ve become.’” Cory’s Father is a milkman and a big supermarket opens that causes him to lose his job. That supermarket that is full of tons of cheap plastic, disposable milk. Cory’s Dad says, “I want things to stay the way they are. I don’t want a gum-chewin’ girl who doesn’t know my name to take my money and not even smile when I ask her how she’s doin’. I don’t want supermarkets open until eight o’clock at night and full of lights that hurt your eyes. Families ought to be home together at eight o’clock not out at the supermarket buyin’ stuff that the big banners hangin’ from the ceilin’ say you ought to buy. I mean…if it goes so far, even in the little ways, we can’t ever go back. And then you’ll have stores and roads and houses, but you won’t have towns anymore. Not the way they are now. It’s people’s souls and caring for each other that dries up and blows away before buildin’ and houses do.” But “life goes on and the roads always lead to unexpected destinations.”

At the end of the book, Cory the adult returns to his hometown Zephyr. Once again, like in his book The Five, he references the impact of music on us. He says “He has tried his hardest to hold off the attitude aging. In this regard, music came to my rescue. I believe music is the language of youth, and the more you can accept as being valid, the younger your attitude gets.” He credits the Beach Boys and the classics pulling at him. I can surely relate to this as I purposely listen to 80s music to lift my spirits because that is the music of my youth. “You see, it’s a girl’s life, too.”
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Jason You picked fabulous quotes to emphasize your thoughts. Great review!


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