Boy’s life is such a good book it’s going to be hard to write a review that does it justice. Words could never explain how much I enjoyed reading it but I’ve still got to try.
Boy’s Life is many things. It’s partly a mystery, but there are enough dark moments in the book for me to consider it a horror story as well. It’s a magical and very beautiful tale about being a boy and growing up and . . . well . . . about a boy’s life.
There’s a lot happening in this book. It has many interesting subplots and some wonderful characters. In fact, if you try and imagine Boy’s Life as a box, the box would contain quite a lot of stories and Robert McCammom, master storyteller that he is, has strung all of them together perfectly to make a much longer tale that’s so good it makes you sad to close the lid at the end.
Boy’s life is written in the first person and the story is narrated to the reader by a man named Corey Jay Mackenson. At the beginning of the book Corey tells us he is approaching his fortieth birthday and explains he’s decided to set some of his memories down on paper. The story narrated in the next 530 or so pages all concern the events of a distant summer.
In 1964, Corey was 12-years-old and still living in the small town of Zephyr where it was never too hot and never too cold. Corey assures us Zephyr was a magic place. Before readers encounter any magic though, they are presented with a murder.
Corey’s father is a milkman. On his busier mornings he sometimes takes Corey with him to help on the rounds. It’s on a morning such as this that the real story starts. Corey and his father are just rounding a bend in the road when a brown car veers in front of them and drops down into the lake. There’s a man behind the wheel and Saxon’s Lake is bottomless so, without any hesitation, Corey’s father stops his truck, gets out, and dives into the lake to save the driver of the car. There is every chance that the car will drag him down with it and even though Tom Mackenson is a strong swimmer, the fact that he’s willing to risk his life for a stranger should give you some idea of what kind of a man Tom is.
Unfortunately the man in the car is already beyond being helped. He is young and fair haired has been handcuffed to the wheel. Worse still, when the head lolls back Tom discovers the young man’s face shows all the signs of a savage beating and he’s wearing a gruesome necktie of copper piano wire. It’s been pulled so tight that it’s embedded in the dead flesh.
Tom Mackenson has seen dead bodies before, but never anything like this and the memory of what he has seen haunts him from that moment on. The dead man invades Tom’s dreams calling for him to “Come join me down in the dark.” One of the hardest things for Tom to deal with is the fact that the killer must be a local person, because only a local would know the lake was so deep. In fact, if Tom and Corey hadn’t witnessed the car going into the lake, no one would ever have known anything about the murder. Another thing that haunts Tom is the sad fact that nobody even seems to know who the dead man was.
While his father is risking his life in the lake, Corey glances over towards the woods and sees someone standing there watching. He’s wearing a long, dark coat. Corey looks away for a moment and when he looks back the figure has gone. Corey does not tell anyone about what he has seen, but later, while his father is talking to the sheriff, he walks over to where the figure was standing, but can see no signs of anyone ever being there. When Corey gets home though, he finds something stuck to the bottom of his shoe. It’s a green feather.
The search for the identity of the dead man and his killer are the main storyline but, as I said earlier, there is so much more to Boy’s Life. A phantom car called Midnight Mona haunts the roads around Zephyr, there’s a monster in the river, and a dinosaur from the lost world stalks the woods. There’s also a monkey called Lucifer who has a very unusual self defence technique—he poops on its victims.
No Boy’s Life book review would be complete without paying at least a passing nod to the elderly gunslinger, the Candystick Kid. How’s that for a name? You can be sure there’s a good story behind that one.
And how could I write a Boy’s Life book review without mentioning The Lady? She’s an interesting character and no mistake. The Lady is a black, voodoo queen who is 106-years-old and gives Corey the gift of a rather special bicycle .
All of these great characters and things have their place in this wonderful story and help to make Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life such a great book. I cannot praise it enough. I wrote this review after sitting and reading the book for the second time. The story hadn’t lost any of its charm. If you are looking for a good book to read, try Boy’s Life. The chances are you’ll be very glad you did.