Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Historical fiction, magic realism, horror, mystery
First Published: 1991
Boy’s Life is a beautifully written and captivating coming-of-age story.
I would like to highlight first of all that while this book might have won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1992, I would say that it was more akin to magic realism with a dose of horror in historical and fictional setting of a small town named Zephyr in Alabama.
“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.”
I’ve not read anything quite like this before. Written in the first person’s perspective, the story and its characters felt so real and relatable that I could almost believe that Zephyr exists and that this book was an actual person’s memoir of his childhood. But at the same time, there were also some supernatural aspects which lent it a magical quality that was both literal and metaphorical. It was able to capture the sense of wonder and awe that childhood had always seemed to be imbued with, way before we were all forced to grow up. You do wonder whether some of the things Cory had seen and experienced were just the source of youthful imagination and fancies, or were they actually real. But whatever it was all real or otherwise, it made for the most compelling read that enabled me to relive my childhood to a certain extent.
“We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls.”
Cory lived and breathed like a childhood friend that I wished I have the pleasure of the knowing. And his family was one of the most wholesome and nurturing that I had the joy of reading. Oh, it’s not always sunshine or rainbows at the Mackenson home but their mutual love, respect and loyalty never failed to see them through the toughest of times. Living through such challenging times as we are now in the midst of the pandemic, it is heartening to be able to read fiction that can make me feel this comforted. The story does have some darker turns as well as some utterly sad and poignant moments, but on a whole it was uplifting and hopeful .
“I had always wondered what Reverend Lovoy meant when he talked about “grace”. I understood it now. It was being able to give up something that it broke your heart to lose, and be happy about it”.
I’m going to keep this review short because the magic is in experiencing this book yourself. But before I go, I must say one more thing and that is the enchanting quality of the writing. The prose in Boy’s Life was truly a thing to be savoured and admired. The references to writing, and the importance of narrative in books, movies, etc, only added to the allure of this story.
“And the need to hear stories, to live lives other than our own for even the briefest moments, is the key to the magic that was born in our bones.”
Highly recommended to anyone who needed a bit of magic back in their life.