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Greyhound [Kindle Edition]

Steffan Piper
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (386 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Ushered out from his Stockton, California home by his emotionally detached mother and her latest boyfriend, twelve-year-old Sebastien Ranes must fend for himself and travel two thousand miles across the country. He is on his way to live with his grandmother and sister in Pennsylvania. Along the way, he will learn that sometimes caring, guidance and understanding can come from some unlikely people.

Marcus, a fellow bus passenger, is a man who has been neglected more by society than his family. As a young black ex-con, he is not the epitome of the person most would pick as a chaperone for their child's cross country trip. Yet rather than be held apart by their differences, Marcus and Sebastien are drawn together by the things that make us all alike.

Along the way, he acts as both guide and protector, as Virgil was to Dante and Jim to Huck Finn. Imparting his own style of wisdom, he shows Sebastien that, despite the darker parts of the human condition, people can and do care for one another. This is a modern day journey not just from one house to another. This is a journey taken by a young boy into manhood, and by the reader into his world. Like every trip, there are many stops along the way. But this journey differs in the way young Sebastien arrives at his destination. Greyhound is the story of this journey.


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Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Steffan Piper

Question: What is Greyhound about?

Steffan Piper: Greyhound is the story of an 11-year-old boy named Sebastien Ranes who is abandoned by his mother. As the book opens, we find her dropping him off in the Stockton, California Greyhound bus station to travel across the country, unaccompanied, to live with his grandmother in Altoona, Pennsylvania--over 2,500 miles away.

Most of the experiences that are in the book are events that actually have taken place in my life. I’ve been working on Greyhound, both in my head and on paper, for about 25 years. I have boxes of journals in my garage detailing many of the stories that are in the book, thoughts I had back then when I was travelling back and forth by bus, and other small details.

Writing about my experiences within the confines of 300 pages wasn’t so easy, but I felt compelled to write about those days. Those years were a very difficult time for me, and pulling a lot of those feelings forward again brought out a lot of emotions that I had buried.

Question: Is the Marcus Franklin character based on a real person?

Steffan Piper: Marcus was a real person that I met on the bus. I’ve thought quite a bit about my encounter with him and the conversations that we had into the middle of the night. When you’re young, it’s the simplest and kindest of gestures that have the most effect and create the most lasting memories. A bag of pretzels can be the equivalent of much more over the passage of time. Not having good role models growing up, I often found myself reaching outward for a guide. Those are often the most dangerous because they have a limit as to what they can give back to you. Those limits are not always visible, especially when you’re young.

Question: Why did you set the book in 1981?

Steffan Piper: I set the book in 1981 because it was a period where life was very different than it is today, and is different in more ways than can be imagined in books or through culture. Some people may not remember it that well, or may not have lived through it, but many have. The most important facet of that time was that it was the beginning of the modern world as we now know it.

The eighties was an era of "analog communication" versus what we have today, which is digital. From telephones to records, everything was analog. People were forced to make more direct links with each other; to reach out, touch and feel the world around them. There was a need to verify the space in front of them. Today’s world seems to ask us repeatedly to do the opposite and not verify our world at all.

Question: Some of the material in the book is pretty heady for an 11-year-old boy turning 12. Got anything to say about that? 

Steffan Piper: I grew up in England and I’m the product of the British educational system, so that will always have an influence on everything that I write.

When I was ten, Sherlock Holmes was my all-time hero. Maybe it was the ease in how he held himself that I found appealing. I think it was the same for Dickens's Twist as well. These were themes I very quickly recognized and latched onto at that age. Shortly after that, when I was 12, reading Carlos Castaneda's books definitely changed my life. The idea of releasing and letting go of your self-image, during a period of my life where I was supposed to be finding that out, was alluring. I gripped onto Castaneda for dear life for about four or five years. I read those books so many times, I probably scared a few counselors at school.

I think when we start thinking as adults that we need to limit material to what we believe young people are capable of, or is normal to them, we immediately have done them a disservice, because most of them would probably shame us in regards to what we know, or think we know.


From Publishers Weekly

This extraordinary and heartbreaking novel tells the story of a child put on a bus by his neglectful mother to go live with his grandparents on the other side of the country. The boy is named Sebastien Ranes, and his 1981 cross-country ride is enlivened by a hijacking, a passenger’s death, and an engine fire. On his voyage he encounters two potential pedophiles, as well as a number of kind strangers who help him along his way. Sebastien befriends an ex-con named Marcus who helps protect him and introduces him to the poetry of Langston Hughes. Through their friendship, Sebastien begins to cut through his own naiveté and to learn how the world works. The author creates people who seem recognizable and lifelike without resorting to stereotypes and clichés, and the story unfolds at a brisk pace. Unlike the typical cross-country bus ride, this remarkable trip is one readers will not want to see end. --This text refers to the manuscript reviewed as a part of the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

Product Details

  • File Size: 438 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0982555091
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (April 20, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0031WHBW4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,407 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
113 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Huck Finn in the Back of the Bus April 26, 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mark Twain might have died 100 years ago this week but American literature is alive and well and carrying his torch. GREYHOUND is a book in a tradition begun by HUCK FINN in which an American character travels through the American landscape encountering America, its people and ultimately, him or herself. Some of my favorite books in this grand tradition are Steinbeck's TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY, Least Heat Moon's BLUE HIGHWAYS and Pirsig's ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE. Add now to the top of the list Steffan Piper's GREYHOUND.

Sebastian Ranes is a vulnerable waif of eleven when his heartless mother puts him on a Greyhound bus in Stockton, California. Like Huck Finn, he lacks true parents in every sense of the word. His father has three other children with the woman he has married and has no time for Sebastian. The boyfriend Sebastian's mom is about to marry gives every indication of being an abusive stepfather. Sebastian's mom is sending him to live with his father's parents. He's been there before.

But never before has he been expected to make the journey alone. In theory, his aunt and his mother's parents are meeting him at stops along the way. In reality, he's completely dependent on the kindnesses of strangers. Sympathetic waitresses feed him. A Greyhound station manager gives him a warm coat. But it is Marcus Franklin, a black ex-con, who becomes his friend, protector and guide to the sad, mad, adult world that Sebastian encounters.

It sounds like bad news, doesn't it? But Marcus hides his secret sorrow and finds healing in introducing Sebastian to the poetry of Langston Hughes and the music of Hall and Oates. Sebastian turns twelve on his long bus ride and takes his first steps into manhood.
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80 of 87 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A worthy trip to take August 29, 2010
Format:Paperback
Greyhound starts when Sebastien Ranes's mother drops him off at the Stockton, California, Greyhound station with a ticket to Altoona, Pennsylvania and about $30. She's getting married to a new guy, and Sebastien's 11-year-old self is just too much baggage to take on. Besides, the soon-to-be husband doesn't like him, so it makes sense to ship him off to grandma and grandpa's. Along with the cash, all she tells him is to sit at the front of the bus, don't talk to strangers, and don't miss the bus when it leaves the station. No I love yours or I'll miss yous for Ms. Ranes.

The year is 1981, and Sebastien is lonely. He's being sent to live with people he doesn't know all that well, and while he's a bit apprehensive about traveling by bus across the US alone with very little money, he's also going to use this as an opportunity to forget about his crappy home life and his worthless mother. When he boards his first bus in Stockton, he aims right to the back of the bus, where he will soon meet Marcus. Marcus, the African American ex-con, will soon become one of the few people in his life he can trust and rely on, and together they make a heck of a pair as they traverse the country by bus. Along the way, Sebastien will learn about loving life, making friends, how to appreciate music, and even how to appreciate literature. There is a happy splattering of literary and musical references, ranging from Catcher in the Rye to Cat Stevens. We're steeped deep into 1981, but we're also steeped into something completely modern and timeless.

Grayhound was a moving book, and it carries a lot more to it than what the description and the cover might suggest.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kept me waiting to find otu the end for two years April 20, 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Greyhound" opens in the darkest hours of the night. Sebastien can't sleep and soon, he'll be leaving. His Mother's getting married for the umpteenth time and he's not even invited to this ceremony. Dick, the groom du jour, doesn't like kids and it's apparent from the hits he's inflicted on Sebastien.

The couple needs some 'alone time.' So, his Mother's packing him up on a Greyhound bus at 3:00 AM to ride from Stockton, CA to Altoona, PA where he will visit his grandparents. His mom gives him $35 and tells him to stay out of trouble. By the time he's boarded, there's not even anyone to wave goodbye to in the bus terminal. Thus, begins a cross-country odyssey for young Sebastien that will keep you turning pages through the night as the highway flies by beneath the bus's tires.

I first read Steffan Piper's extraordinary "Greyhound" when it was submitted for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (ABNA) contest in 2008. Every time I've seen a Greyhound bus passing on the highway, I've thought of Sebastien Rane or perhaps a kid like him riding alone...Yes, the story's that extraordinary.

Rebecca Kyle, April 2010
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably one of my favorite reads of this year! September 25, 2010
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
After reading several of the reviews here, I feel a bit out-of-place because I'm "just a reader"; but I'm sure my voice is appreciated somewhere. This story was great - it took me in, wrapped me up in heartfelt sympathy for that boy whose uncaring mother treated him so shamefully. All along his journey I was anxious - was he going to come to harm? Who'd help him? Where would his food - and what kind - come from? I was so glad he finally met Marcus - but I was also afraid that HE'D turn out to be wrong!

I have no idea of where the author got his plot (nor do I care) but my feelings are that he did a super job of telling this story. Hopefully, most readers will overlook any simple problems with the writing? He deserves to have LOADS of people buy this book to see what he did with it. Yes, there are funny parts; yes, there is anguish for the young Sebastien - and some pretty scary moments, too. But all in all, Steffan Piper wrote a down-and-out wonderful piece of work! Loved it.
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More About the Author

Born in Pennsylvania in 1971 and raised in England and various parts of Alaska. Attended school at the University of Alaska, Anchorage and the University of Los Angeles, California.

Once a resident of Alaska, the Mayor of Nome asked him to 'leave and never return,' due to a minor misunderstanding.

Steffan Piper currently lives on the outskirts of Los Angeles with his family. Most of his writing occurs in the dead of night unlike the bulk of his contemporaries.

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Editing Greyhound
Ella,

I was shocked to see your post here regarding this. I just want to say thanks for going to bat for Greyhound and for Langston Hughes.

So far, all is not lost with the Langston Hughes material yet. I have 'petitioned the lord with prayer' as the old saying goes, as well as with forms,... Read More
Dec 27, 2009 by Steffan Piper |  See all 6 posts
Reading Guide now available ... Be the first to reply
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