Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Runaway - Peter May


Runaway
Peter May
Quercus
 
Fiction

For a group of teenagers, Glasgow in 1965 seems to offer little to no future.  Especially if the future you want is as a rock and roll band.  London – the Big Smoke – that’s where all the action was happening.  Like so many other young people, they are completely captivated by the sounds of the Beatles, the Kinks, and so many others.  They’ve been doing fairly well in their community as a cover band and have dreams far beyond the staid lives presented by their parents.  When their de facto leader, Jack, gets expelled from school for having a bit of cannabis, they all decide, each for his own reasons, to leave immediately.

The story begins in the present day, a literal lifetime away from their time in London.  Maurice, once their lead singer, calls to ask Jack for his help.  Jack owes him.  Maurice has terminal cancer and is probably weeks away from his own death.  There’s something that he must set right before he dies.  Jack can’t do this alone, so he enlists the help of his own very reluctant grandson, Ricky, and that of Dave, the onetime bassist.  Together, the four retrace that 1965 path to London, while Jack confronts his own past actions.

 
This story is related by present-day Jack, now a man pushing seventy.  He’s looking back at his life and is not particularly happy.  His wife died a few years ago, his son and daughter-in-law couldn’t wait to put him in a home for the aged.  His grandson is a computer genius who lost his first job and never found another.  That time in London was a true turning point in all of their lives.  Nothing was the same afterwards, for any of them, for all kinds of reasons.  The bond that was formed, though, is still strong some fifty years later. 
 
As it happens, the author once ran away to London as a teenager.  His experiences obviously color those scenes. There’s a true energy to this tale that jumps off the page. The characters might be people you know; they’re individuals, each with his own history and motives.  Human relationships are rarely neat and tidy.  It’s satisfying to witness Ricky and Jack, coming to appreciate each other as individuals.  Watching the relationship between Jack and Maurice evolve is very bittersweet.  They were best friends until London; even in the present day, Maurice is holding back secrets because of his own resentment.  I doubt I would have been brave (or foolhardy) enough to make that kind of trip, but I’m glad I got to go along with Jack, twice.        
 
 
Rating: 7 ½
February 2016
ISBN# 978-0-62365-789-5 (hardcover)

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