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Rewind Kindle Edition
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|Length: 268 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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Decades later, as an adult she lives a regular American life in California, but when she goes back for her Granddad's funeral (okay, not her "real" granddad, but anyway, it's complicated in these small Scottish towns...) she really has to face the facts: who is she? what has she become? and most of all, what has become of her high-school crush??? Is the first cut really the deepest? You'll laugh as you watch Karen answer these questions, and more.
A Review of Rewind, a novel by Denise Allan Steele
Like a long-running in-joke, Denise Allan Steele’s Rewind delivers, and delivers again, and again. Aptly titled, the metaphor of rewinding, of revisiting, of “here we go again,” gives the reader the experience, and the pure pleasure (and pain) of growing up—in this case, growing up working-class in 1970s – 80s Scotland. Though in many ways a coming-of-age novel, it does not stop there. Protagonist and first-person narrator, Karen, takes us on the journey, along with her best friend, Carol, as kids together, becoming adolescents, and then splitting as Karen leaves Kilbrannan to go to Glasgow to attend college while her friend gets pregnant, then marries, and stays behind. The book has quite a scope: later, Karen marries, moves to California and has children, where she is essentially happy, though not without conflict.
Allan Steele’s voice is impeccable, not just as a native Scot (which, pedestrian though it may be, is much of the book’s appeal), but perfectly age-appropriate, from kid to adolescent, in a relatively small working –class town, to college student and adulthood. The story opens with adult Karen on one of her annual visits home to Kilbrannan from California, at the funeral of Carol’s grandfather—about which she is considerably sadder and more nostalgic than her friend. The conversation about why Carol is not, perhaps, as sad as she should be, ignites the comedy that runs through the novel. The two begin to reminisce about the time they were “chucked out of church” and Carol shouted, “God save the Queen, the fascist regime,” pulling readers in with a good laugh and a crisp sense of time and place.
Chapter titles are song titles that evoke an era and underline the age of the characters. Steele captures so many phases of life so well, it’s difficult to choose which are most evocative. One example: as a burgeoning adolescent, straining at her class, her perceived small world, and of course her changing body, Karen is working in the ice cream van in the chapter entitled, “I’m Not in Love.” Karen describes one of the town folk who is both eccentric and exemplar, and to whom she is trying to show her good manners, when everything changes:
“Then I saw him. Bobby Henderson, sailing around the corner on the skateboard he had made from an old roller skate nailed onto a length of wood with a bit of old carpet glued on top.”
A few sentences later, once she has declared that she is ”not in love,” she declares that Bobby was “in remedial and smoked,” thus clearly not for her. Her keen eye for these details characterizes those who people the work. I cheered, at times laughing aloud.
People, events, and self-perceptions are all-too-often either “fantastic” or “pathetic,” and at the end of some of the more hilarious scenes, narrator Karen will conclude with, “It was the worst day of my life,” and later, “It was the best day of my life,” further emphasizing age, and life’s phases.
While it is a romp, there is also real pain, real conflict, and we are firmly in Karen’s shoes throughout. Steele deftly incorporates political references indicative of the evolving times. She makes a fine distinction, without preaching or belaboring the point, in later chapters about the difference between being an immigrant and an ex-pat. Other political allusions throughout are neither heavy-handed nor frequent, but instead they add a layer of realism and complexity, time and place, depth of character. Allan Steele’s eye is on the story, and thus, so is the reader’s. She never gets in her own or our way, and the read is a delight.
Zorro D. Riser