A debut coming-of-age novel about a teenager in East Texas.
Presuming that he has killed his father after pushing him into a handrail, teenager John Sharpe is on the run. Racing his beloved Porsche 914 away from his hometown of Texarkana, he finds himself in a panic. Though his relationship with his father was strained, he didn’t mean to kill him. Or did he? What John doesn’t know (though readers soon learn) is that John’s father, Chip, isn’t dead; he is merely perturbed that his only son would leave him in such a state without so much as calling an ambulance. As John goes about his escape, Chip keeps tabs as best he can from the sidelines, often making use of connections ranging from the local sheriff to folks at a country club in Galveston. Meanwhile, John learns things he might never have dreamt of in his upper-middle-class upbringing. From the monotony of road construction to the seedier side of a Texas megachurch, the world, he discovers, is difficult and often violent. Will John manage on his own or will he go insane believing that he has killed his father? Can father and son ever reconcile? Notable for its detailed locations, the story incorporates allusions ranging from the history of Galveston to the high school football–obsessed culture of Texas. John proves likable enough, though not always as interesting as the places around him. Young and inexperienced in dull, difficult tasks, his internal reflections don’t always come across as terribly compelling, as when he considers the tediousness of a road construction task: “We live in a slow moving, never varying buffer zone of powdery dirt and roots. A moving prison.” Despite the suspense being diminished somewhat by the fact that, early on, readers know Chip isn’t dead, the memorable story shines best with regards to geography (not many coming-of-age road stories bother with New Boston, Texas) and character (John’s great ambition is to become a professional tennis player).
Limited in thrills though extensive in detail, a worthy contribution to the coming-of-age genre.