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A catchall collection of essays and reminiscences, topped off with some brief fiction, is a pleasant blast of ’40s and ’50s nostalgia.

Retired broker Bowhay has been writing for his local Monterey paper for a while; When the Lord Spoke collects his columns and then some. The first two sections, “Growing Up” and “Commentary,” are ostensibly split between reminiscences on growing up in California’s Pacific Grove area and musings on the present day there, but both are stuck in the post-war era, when the author was coming of age. Not that this a bad thing: in amiable, casual prose over essays that rarely cross the two-page mark, Bowhay builds an admirably detailed composite portrait of his boyhood during World War II and a coming-of-age full of pleasurably conflicted sexual awakening. The author picks up on the ephemera of his childhood the same way millennial kids fixate on ’80s corniness, wondering whatever happened to “pocketknives, Mumbelty Peg, and tops.” Only occasionally does he slip into cranky-old-man territory, as when decrying modern women’s preference for wearing jeans instead of skirts: “ladies, for the sake of your country…take that rebate check and buy a dress or skirt.” Otherwise, Bowhay sticks to what he knows, building a warm portrait of a California community where shooting fresh meat for dinner was the norm, kids could find high school jobs at the local hotels and youthful sexual encounters never hurt anyone too badly. A smattering of short stories have much the same feel, and some wan verse on the last page is too brief to do any real harm. The title is a bit misleading–it refers to the foghorn blast that would go off down by the bay, scaring necking couples into thinking God was judging their tentative fumblings. The author’s worldview recommends religion, but being devout is in no way a precondition for enjoying the collection.

Lightly likable and none-too-substantive, but pleasant and nostalgic for the demographically similar.

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4392-0333-0
Program: Kirkus Indie
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