Adult / Fiction / Coming-of-Age
I gave this book 4 out of 5 Stars
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Seventeen-year-old Jude lives in small town Minnesota, the son of a preacher, and surrounded by narrow minded thinkers in a bubble community where there are no gray areas in life. Jude longs to stretch his boundaries and quietly rebels every chance he gets. As a boarder at the Christian Boys' School in St. Paul, he has some opportunities to spread his wings and define himself apart from his family's definition. However, it's not until Jude scores two tickets to the Rose Bowl that Jude follows the call of freedom (from school, from his parents, from all their expectations) and decides to hitchhike to sunny California to go to the game. Along with his friend Stick, Jude sets out in the bitter cold of a Minnesota winter with nothing but a suitcase and the never failing optimism that the next ride is always on its way.
Ironically, in Jude's quest to escape his religious bindings, he and Stick encounter matters of faith and religion in almost every person they meet, while also encountering many of the things the boys have been protected from in their bubbles. Where Jude happily rolls with whatever situations arise, regardless of how off-putting they may seem (is it coincidence that Saint Jude was the Patron Saint of Hope and impossible causes?), Stick is a good counter-balance with his wariness, convictions, and expectations. As the two young men make their way across the country, author David Beck provides a colorful cast of characters, richly detailed experiences, and a generous slice of Americana with numerous pop culture references and current events from 1961. Readers of any age will easily slide back into that era, marveling in the mindsets and simplicity of the times.
Beck's writing is fluid and enjoyable and he writes well -- the very few errors were mostly typos and didn't interfere with the flow of the story. Beck's strengths are in his characterization and subtle humor of viewing life through the eyes of a teen-aged boy. (For example, Jude's lament: "I wish I could be as smart as Stick and come from a dysfunctional family. Some guys get all the breaks.") There are a few lulls in the story line and some tangents that were tedious and probably could have been left out, but the sum of all the parts is a series of events that when connected, get Jude and Stick miraculously from Point A to Point B.
"Although this story was inspired by actual events,
I need to stress -- to paraphrase Pablo Picasso --
this story is a lie that tells the truth."
-- author David Beck
As an interesting side note, Beck shared in a Coastsider Radio interview (8/2/15) that his real-life hitchhiking adventure really shaped his life; however, he didn't realize it until Beck shared his "hard times" with his son, who was having his own rough patch. As Beck revisited his memories, he realized how much those times influenced him and saw a book unfolding in his correspondences with his son. Beck is quick to add that in the book, he "took a lot of liberties with the characters and situations."
Thank you to the author for providing me a print copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.