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BOYS WILL BE BOYS,
This review is from: Jim the Boy : A Novel (Paperback)The year is 1934. A new school is under construction in Aliceville in order to consolidate five disparate one and two room school houses. Convict crews are manually digging post holes along a state route in advance of electricity coming to this North Carolina community. Polio is still an uncontrolled blight upon the national landscape. The story opens on Jim Glass's tenth birthday and chronicles a full year of Jim's life experiences: those mostly small, ordinary, and subtle developments typical of growing-up. Herein lies the value of Tony Earley's first novel.
Most readers of this book will not relate to the Depression-era world of young Jim. New Carpenter, North Carolina is an hour away - 30 miles distant - at the average truck's normal speed. Television is far enough in the future that it's absence does not even register on the reader's consciousness. At the same time, however, Jim Glass shares the same psychological changes and the full range of emotional expression and trauma that children do today. This book reminds us that healthy growth and development depend more on a loving environment than it does on a sophisticated, technologically advantaged one; that boys and girls are not as different in their needs and thoughts as parents and youngsters might imagine if they judged decades by their differences in clothes, hair-styles, cultures, and socio-economic circumstances.
Tony Earley's effort is not plot driven, nor is it fueled by literary pyrotechnics. It is episodic; evidencing an understated, yet unambiguous moral sensitivity; and characterized by clear, precise, and concise prose. Readers will find it, curiously enough, a "page-turner." Such quiet, pastoral works often find themselves, at the end of the day, listed among a reader's all-time favorite books. JIM THE BOY was the "cover story" in a June 2000 edition of THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. There it was reviewed very favorably in the most adult terms for an adult reading public. The author deliberately aimed this book though at a younger audience: the wide-ranging young-adult market. At the end of his novel, Earley references and recommends a few classic children's works of great import to him. For example, he highlights MY ANTONIA, and THE YEARLING to name just a couple. I think JIM THE BOY is an excellent candidate for many high-school required reading lists and is an ideal choice for many adult reading groups. Whether yesterday, today, or tomorrow: boys will always be boys.