Boy’s Life

by Robert McCammon

“The years of a boy’s life pass so fast, Cory.” She smiled faintly. “Boys want to hurry up and be men, and then comes a day they wish they could be boys again. But I’ll tell you secret, Cory. Want to hear it?”
I nodded.
“No one,” Mrs. Neville whispered, “ever grows up.”

In the tiny town of Zephyr, mid-1960, Corey and his father witness a body being dumped in the lake of a bottomless quarry. Since no perpetrator can be identified, the body cannot be recovered and no one seems to be missing, the crime is shelved and life continues in town. But Corey and his father have not forgotten.

Our narrator is the 11-year-old Cory Mackenson, but large portions of this book might as well be narrated by us, telling our young lives back to ourselves. Much of this reads as slice-of-life, not necessarily an adventure story, and it’s these sections many folks will most strongly identify with. Mr. McCammon strikes the chord of youth and holds it throughout, and while many parts are the somber, life-lesson variety, it’s much more often an uproarious whirlwind of activity, imagination and fancy in a towering coming-of-age novel.

You’ll be hard pressed to recall a book that makes you laugh as long, as hard and as frequently as this one does–bellowing, stomach-cramping laughter. And it’ll make you cry, too, once you find that one particular experience that meshes with your own boyhood, bringing something back with it. It’s an emotionally charged novel all the way through.

The book’s tremendous humor works at least partially because the boy is narrating events with a straight face, just telling us what happened without even a glint in his eye. Because we know what we do about life the situational absurdity gets ratcheted up to another level. It works because Cory doesn’t yet know how funny it is and how his experiences will ring when he’s acquired adulthood. But we know. How could we forget?

SubPress has an excellent synopsis on their website, and in it are the three perfect words for the book. Combined with the title, what you really need to know is:

Magic, and astonishingly moving.

5 stars

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