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Billy Goat Hill Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 11, 2005
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The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
It's 1958 in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood, and eight-year-old Wade Parker and his six-year-old brother Luke are coming to terms with the sudden death of their infant brother and the unraveling of their family. When the boys are having an adventure one day at a nearby pond, they accidentally become involved in a murder, which haunts them for years to come. Morris's debut novel (which he previously self-published under the title The King of Billy Goat Hill) is full of promise, despite a few rough patches, especially the unnecessary epilogue and some dialogue that can be florid. (One early scene has a character snapping philosophically during a fight sequence that fear "seizes you like some kind of two-part poison! A frigid-hot fever makes you shiver and sweat and makes your brain skip like a broken record stuck between conflicting impulses to hide or jettison all cargo and flee!") The novel's Christian content sometimes feels tacked on and didactic, rather than emerging naturally from the story. But the book also offers exceptional characterizations, especially of the two boys, the kind but haunted police officer who befriends them and his beautiful but equally troubled fiancée. Morris knows how to pen fine narration, and the story flows well, despite pacing that drags a bit in the middle; he also demonstrates keen perception of human nature. The final third of the novel picks up the story in Wade's adulthood, as he struggles with guilt and alcoholism and makes the painful transition from boy to man. In an inspiring and well-executed ending, he discovers forgiveness, love and a new spiritual understanding.
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Eight-year-old Wade Parker is trying hard to cope after his alcoholic father's abandonment. With his mouthy little brother, Luke, in tow, he tries to find meaning in running a cardboard car down cactus-and-junk-car strewn Billy Goat Hill, but the tough characters in his neighborhood present even worse obstacles. Then death intrudes, and it's too much to bear: he feels like "the last boy on earth." There's help in Jesus, a friendly cop explains, and slowly Wade finds his way toward the light. Set in 1950s Los Angeles, Morris' coming-of-age tale brings to mind a Christian favorite of several years ago, John Fischer's Saint Ben (1993). John Mort
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Well, you meet the Parker brothers! At least you meet Wade and Luke, and Wade does a find job as narrator. He talks about how it all got started on Billy Goat Hill with a dare to ride The Crippler! You learn how him and Luke meet Scar, later in the book known as "The Sergeant" as well as his special friend, Miss Cherry. You will learn that Wade and Luke love these 2 special people. The love for them is like the love of their dog, Mac. You are taken to some of the glory days of Duke Snyder, and you may have inner debate of whether Don Drysdale or Sandy Koufax is the better pitcher of that era. Depending on your nature, you might develope a slight hatred for mockingbirds, or come to love them all the more.
But when it comes down to it, Morris has a message. Can we forgive? Can we come to an understanding at times? There is a quiet understanding in this, even through our inner demons, and it just goes to show that love can conquer all, and that Christ can heal a broken heart. While that doesn't give anything away, I think I'll leave it at that. But in saying that, do yourself a favor and check this out! Very special indeed!! This deserves more than a pat on the back. This deserves a big embrace!
"Billy Goat Hill" follows the lives of two brothers growing up in the suburbs of greater Los Angeles. They are typical boys, mischievous and adventure-seeking. But they are without a father, and their mother is very withdrawn after the death of their baby brother. A local policeman becomes a surrogate father of sorts, yet when one of the boys believes himself responsible for an accidental murder, all of their lives will be changed--for good and for bad.
Ultimately, Morris' story is one of redemption. Along the way, he shows the struggles of childhood, and the manner in which these struggles continue into adulthood. While keeping the story palpable for a Christian audience, Morris also portrays real issues in the lives of boys and men.
Although the story drags in a few places and the last third of the book switches quickly, somewhat abruptly into the future, I found the story engrossing. The endouement paints a clear picture of God's hand and forgiveness in our lives, even through the deceptions of sin and humanity. Thank God for quality men's literature in this market. It's about time.
The story opens in 1958, and anyone who is 40-something years of age, will recognize the nostalgic antics we participated in as kids. But Billy Goat Hill isn't just a story about childhood and coming-of-age. It's a narrative about emotional and physical survival, the power and positive imprint a stranger can leave on a young life; and the rewards that a stubbornness to overcome can bring.
The Parker family is trying to recover from the death of an infant brother, and a mother's grief tends to distance her from her two living sons. Lucinda, as Wade refers to his mother, is a lost soul, and 8-year old Wade assigns himself the responsibility to care for his foundering family.
Earl, the Parker brothers' father, is mostly missing; a carefree alcoholic who can't seem to connect with his role as a father. Wade wonders how life might be different if Duke Snider, the famous player for the Dodgers, were his father, instead. Wade weighs most of his major life decisions as a child against what Duke might think, say or do, and it's a running theme throughout the book.
But Wade Parker's most urgent dilemma at 8-years-old is completing a dare to ride a cardboard sled down the infamous Billy Goat Hill on the outskirts of Los Angeles. It's during his early morning escapade, which involves sneaking out of the house with his six-year-old brother, Luke, that the Parker brothers first meet a man and woman who will forever influence their young lives.
Convinced they will be killed for witnessing what looks like a motorcycle gang confrontation, the young Parkers instead become fascinated with a dynamic couple they first know as Scar and Miss Cherry, both of whom are police officers and who are in on a prank to initiate a rookie officer.
From that moment, the Parker boys form a lifelong bond with Scar, aka Sergeant, and Miss Cherry.
At times, the Sergeant and/or Miss Cherry are absent from the continuing lives of the Parker boys; and the incidents that separate the foursome are such that tend to happen in life, but still birth the question of "why."
Also running throughout the story line is a thread of Christianity, which gets picked up off and on through dilemmas and the people who come into a life. Like a needle slipping in and out of fabric, it nicely ties the story together and brings all the pieces together like a well-made quilt.
This is not intended as a touchy-feely feel-good book; but it is a well-above-average, satisfying read that leaves a good feeling behind anyway.
Morris writes with a lyrical voice and uses vivid, innovating descriptions that beg to be read aloud. Morris was born and raised in Southern California, a background that brings a richness to the setting for Billy Goat Hill.
Told in first person from Wade's point of view, Billy Goat Hill spans the defining years of childhood and early adulthood, throws in some life events in the middle and ends with Wade at 40 years old and coming into his fullness as a man of God.