In this debut memoir, a tumultuous year at a strict Christian boarding school shows one young man when to stand up for himself.
Drawing on his experiences as the son of a preacher, Braman offers insights into how teenagers, even well-mannered ones, can be pushed to their limits by the draconian enforcement of religious and moral rules. His memoir opens with the worn conceit of a dirt road as a symbol for the journey of life, but this muddy metaphor gives way to a coming-of-age tale about his year attending a restrictive Christian boarding school in central Florida in 1962. In a story peppered with asides on bygone fixtures, such as a $1 diner breakfast, Braman tells how he thumbed his nose at the school’s authoritarians by roughhousing during football matches with his best friend, Bill, and sneaking around campus to spend more time with his sweetheart, Brenda. Student snitches told on misbehaving classmates, which left the student body paranoid about being watched, and confirmed Braman’s apprehension about living in a religious panopticon. The plot moves at a steady clip throughout, with tension between the students and teachers building as the school reaches its Christmas break. At the height of the drama, Braman took a stand against the tyrannical Mrs. Rutledge, earning students’ respect. Although he maintained a few allies among the faculty, his stand eventually morphed into full-tilt rebellion, and soon after, he was expelled. Returning home to his parents’ more forgiving views on Christianity and ethics, he realized how oppressive the academy’s environment was. The short chapters divide the story into meaningful scenes, full of folksy observations and anecdotes about his teenage years. Throughout, the author imparts common-sense advice about coming to terms with responsibility and authority. With an avuncular tone and a nudge toward mischief, he conjures a journey of change—a snapshot of innocence turned into the picture of responsibility, tinged with the nostalgia of growing up in the good old days.
A quaint chronicle of a young man’s revelations about religious dogma and moral justice.