118 of 121 people found the following review helpful
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. In his unlikely friendship with Marcus, the reader's faith in human nature is restored and redeemed. "Heartwarming" is an overused word in reviews like this; GREYHOUND lights a flame that will warm your heart and soul.
This is one journey you don't want to miss. The bus leaves in five minutes from platform number 2. Now Boarding. Final call.
84 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2010
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. In the story, all of our characters learn important lessons, as well as discover who they are and who others are via the vehicle of a road trip on one of America's former strongholds of transportation. The Greyhound was the perfect vehicle for this story. We'll also have highs and lows on the trip, from a hostage attempt to a broke down bus, that couldn't happen realistically in another vehicle.
Although there are certainly depressing moments in the story, it is ultimately hopeful, and Sebastien is a character who is worth loving. This is a point Marcus will make, as well, but it's one we as readers figure out far before either Marcus or Sebastien do. Piper's characters are fully fleshed and dynamic and most importantly, believable. I loved their flaws and their moments of realization and connections to one another. I loved that Sebastien has preferences even down to who is driving the bus.
Piper's story is well-paced, moving and jerking about in the same manner that the trip experienced by Sebastien does: there are times when it zips along and times when it is slow, methodical, and worth taking notes at. Although this could become gimmicky, I never felt it became that way. It just worked.
Although this title is marketed for adults, it is one that has incredible cross-over appeal to young adult readers. Fans of Stephen Chobsky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower will eat this title up, as, I suspect, will fans of Joe Nemo's Hairstyles of the Damned and Rob Sheffield's Love is a Mixtape. Though our main character is 11 and quite younger than the characters in the prior two titles, it's the music, the culture, and the actual writing that will likely appeal. Oh, and it would, without doubt, appeal to fans of Catcher in the Rye.
Although we may feel our lot is at times crummy, we see the sparks of the good and latch onto those moments. I have a feeling Greyhound will stick with me for quite a long time in the same way some of these other titles have.
53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
"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
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2010
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.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Greyhound is an absorbing adventure tale with a hopeful message of strength, wisdom, resiliency and kindness. I read the excerpt on the product page and was hooked. I had to know what happened to Sebastien Ranes, the twelve year old haphazardly tossed onto a Greyhound bus in the middle of the night by his poor excuse for a mother. He is on a cross-country trip alone, shipped off to live with his grandparents so his mother can begin her new life with her latest man.
Along the way there are bus mishaps, threats and a fortuitous meeting with Marcus, a savvy guardian angel who, albeit temporarily, is the strong male role model Sebastien desperately needs. Well crafted, the author creates a mesmerizing story of the journey by weaving elements of poetry and music with Marcus' common sense and gentle guidance, to help Sebastien sort through a kaleidoscope of trauma so he may begin to heal.
Greyhound is filled with positive messages, none maudlin or sanctimonious. The tone is perfect and consistent throughout. For me, the spell created by the book remained unbroken. This is a powerful and moving story, and I recommend it to all.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
This book brings back some real memories for me. Back in 1992 I took a Greyhound ride from Olympia to Los Angeles, traveling on much of the same route as what's in this book. Since then I've also traveled from Seattle to Palm Springs and from Palm Springs to Phoenix, all on the Greyhound. Mind you, my travels haven't been nearly as eventful as those in this book...
The novel tells the story of young Sebastien, a very unhappy twelve-year-old boy whose mother and soon-to-be stepfather want nothing to do with him. They dump him onto a Greyhound bound for Pennsylvania and then wander out of his life.
Sebastien spends the next several days traveling across country meeting interesting people (Leigh Allen? Really, Mr Piper? I had to chuckle), befriending an ex-con and experiencing, well, the sorts of things no one on a bus wants to deal with. Ever.
I really enjoyed this book and read it through in one sitting. The author has a great voice and the character of Sebastien was interesting enough that I hope we see him again in a sequel or two. He's clearly a stand-in for the author (and borders on being a Gary Stu in a couple scenes where every woman who meets him seems to think he's just the bee's knees), and I'd like to see more of the character and see what becomes of him in later years.
My only gripe with the book really is that it seems like too much stuff happens during one trip. Kinda like how there's always some dark alien threat menacing Cardiff in every episode of "Torchwood", this kid seems to have every possible problem happen to him during his trip. It's a minor thing and understandable from a dramatic point of view, but it could've perhaps been scaled back a bit (ie: the Leigh Allen thing, which, while vaguely funny for people who, like me, have seen a certain recent movie, doesn't add much to the story).
Other than that minor complaint, the story was good, solid and wonderful.
Now when do we get the sequel?
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2010
The best compliment that I can pay this author is that I often forgot I was reading a book. I felt like I was right there on the bus with Sebastien, the white 11-year-old protagonist, and Marcus, a black ex-con he befriends on this cross-country bus trip.
Sebastien and Marcus, each in their own way, are two of society's throw-aways who meet and form a bond as they wend their way toward uncertain futures. Sebastien is once again being sent by a neglectful and disinterested mother to live with relatives. Marcus, recently released from prison, is the apparent victim of a miscarriage of justice.
Sebastien's sense of alienation is heartbreakingly illustrated by his self-identification with wax mannequins he had seen on a museum tour, because "we all moved around a lot and we didn't know where we'd be put next." The image of himself as a wax figure reemerges in a bad dream during the long bus trip.
Marcus passes time on the trip immersed in the poetry of Langston Hughes, often reading verses aloud to Sebastien, as in the following:
-- "What happens to a dream deferred? | Does it dry up | like a raisin in the sun?" --
While much of Greyhound is heart-wrenching, there is an ultimate thread of hope and optimism in the novel. Two prisoners of circumstances, both as yet unable to realize their dreams, can choose nonetheless to hold these dreams dear, not lost but deferred. Despite his misfortunes, Marcus has managed to find an inner peace. He urges Sebastien to see beyond his current difficulties, stay true to himself, be a man and not a coward, and dare to dream. Hughes says it best:
-- "But the dream | Will come back, | And the song, | Break | Its jail."
32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Greyhound is the story of a 12 year-old boy whose mother and her newest boyfriend usher Sebastien onto a Greyhound bus dumping him in Pennsylvania to stay with his sister and grandmother. The boy travels alone from California across the country and has some remarkable encounters and he befriends an ex-prisoner Marcus.
I enjoyed the book enough to keep reading, while the storyline kept me interested. I developed a strong sense of setting, the feel inside the bus, array of characters traveling the highways, and the various descriptive terminals.
However, that this story is in first-person narrative, was a major distraction. The words used in narration, such was queried naively, flummoxed, acquiesced, meandered, pearlescent, bellowed and guffawed, etc., etc., were not that of a boy speaking or reminiscing. One loses sight of a 12 year-old boy.
My confusion lies with present or past narrative. I wondered often if this was narration from an adult looking back at the past, or is it narration from the present, in this case being 1981. With that, 12 year-old Sebastien's personality and behavior seemed inconsistent with his age. I believe the story would have more impact told from a non-participant's view; then, and only then, would the big fluff words fit. Even then, I got a sense of too many fluffy and distracting words where simpler would have done fine.
So the question remains: was the narration that of a grown-up and educated Sebastien looking back, or was narration in the present few days of 1981??
A character's role is to stimulate emotion; it is difficult to attach any emotions to this young boy when we keep hearing language parallel to an educated adult. The only time I felt empathy for the boy was the idea of journey engineered by a non-caring pathetic mother. I also felt that children who are victims of neglect, verbal and physical abuse, regardless, have a deep love for the abuser, no matter what, and in this case the abuser is his mother. Sebastien was too vocal the other way around, and generally, it isn't until children are well past childhood do they construct the pieces for an assessment Sebastien used.
I felt the dialogue was more on the generic side; it was a challenge to "hear" different voices. At time, voices ran together. Dialogue for Sebastien was too similar in generality as with his friend Marcus.
The character trait "stuttering" was used in the beginning dialogue only, and then forgotten. It was mentioned very little at the end, but the trait was lost without mention. We need to be reminded of those traits that identify a character.
Again, the journey and friendship with the ex-prisoner is interesting as it provides some comfort to a young person traveling alone. You will find yourself continuing to the end. ....Rizzo
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2010
From the moment I started reading Greyhound, I was hooked by the main character, a 12 year old boy about to board a bus across America alone so that his mother's new husband wouldn't have to raise a child that wasn't his own. Sebastian is a wonderful character- naive and sensitive and astonishingly open-minded given his situation. It is so telling that is he surprised every time an adult reacts taken-aback by his mother's decision to pack him off to PA on a bus; he apparently expects nothing better.
The characters Sebastian meets along the way are extremely colorful, but not outside the realm of possibility, especially on such a long bus ride. I know some reviewers have taken issue with the series of dramatic events on the journey, but I've known Greyhound bus trips involving a police reception, shootout and subsequent arrest, followed by bus breakdown due to engine fire (and that was just on a 5 hour ride!) In fact, for anyone who has ever ridden Greyhound for anything other than a DC-NY-Boston run, this story will bring a smile and a shudder for its accuracy.
There were some places where the prose was awkward, and some grammar errors that grated (not sure how the editor missed them) but these were niggling irritations that did not detract from the strength of the story. Sebastian is a wonderful character- flawed and vulnerable and oh-so-appealing. This book was an impressive debut effort; I hope we see more from this author.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2012
I fell in love with Sebastian and Marcus. I read constantly and have for over 35 years. This is one of my all time favorite books...I will read it again and again... It was written so well, I felt like I had been on that bus with them as a invisible observer. I already miss my two friends... BTW...It also made me want to, again, read the poetry of Langston Hughes...Fabulous read!