I have long been of the opinion that there is little in life more magical than a twelve-year-old boy. For some reason, around the age of twelve many boys seem to enter into a dream where the imaginations that they have cultivated from babyhood begin to merge with the independence and strength of the men they are becoming and they become so interesting. They live and operate in a world that can be dangerous if they are not careful, that is always mysterious, and filled with possibilities. As a writer I love writing about boys this age and as a reader I'm happy to find books about them.
For the past couple of weeks I have been reading Robert McCammon's Boy's Life. I have been reading it slowly because it is so full of great stuff that I don't want it to be over too soon. Boy's Life is written from the point of view of twelve-year-old Cory Mackenson who lives in Zephyr, Alabama. The year is 1964 and Cory's world is full of amazing and magical things. The story begins when early one morning Cory is helping his father, Tom, who is a milkman (remember milkmen?) make his deliveries. As they are passing a quarry a car cuts across in front of them and sinks into the water in the quarry. Tom dives in the hopes of rescuing anyone who might be in the car and, in the water, he finds something terrifying, a dead man horribly beaten and strangled, tied inside the car. The image of this man's violent death haunts Tom without mercy.
This story is so rich with the details of a boy's life it just dazzles me. Throughout the book I have found myself crying (when Cory's dying friend asks him to make up a story to tell him) and laughing (Cory's descriptions of some of the people in Zephyr are priceless) and cheering (when one of his friends beats the crap out of the town bully.)
The town of Zephyr is filled with marvelous characters one of whom walks around in his birthday suit which is politely ignored by everyone, a pair of goofy sisters who dress in their favorite color schemes (one green, one blue), a nasty teacher known as Leatherlungs, a fantastic elderly man who was once a famous gunslinger, and a mysterious and magical elderly black woman known only as The Lady. When Cory's bike is destroyed and Cory saves a little boy from a mysterious creature, The Lady presents Cory with a new bike that he names Rocket. He soon discovers that Rocket has magical properties and their adventures together begin.
Everything about Cory rings true: his collection of monster comics, his travails with the Demon – an obnoxious classmate with a crush on him, his loyalty to his friends, his endless wondering about the mysterious world of adults, his rampant curiosity. Most of all his boundless imagination. He lives in a world of endless boy-magic where strange beasts roam the forests, bombs fall through the roofs of houses on Christmas Eve, peculiar boxcar-riding tramps show him the harsh realities of life, and dreams bring warnings and puzzles to be solved.
This is a wonderful book, beautifully written, and so real you can't believe you are reading instead of hanging out with the people in it. I've never read Robert McCammon's books before but I've purchased two more that I am looking forward to. He is a writer with amazing talent and the magic of a twelve-year old boy inside.
Thanks for reading.