A charming collection of vignettes detailing the antics of young Frank Wilcox and his friends as they make their way through primary and junior high school in fictional Acorn, Georgia, during the 1960s and’70s.
Vaughan’s (Brookwood Road, 2014) second novel covers the same years as his first, but whereas his earlier work told the story of Frank’s childhood on his grandfather’s hog farm, this volume focuses on his school experiences. As readers learn up front, Frank is a stand-in for Vaughan himself, and Acorn is in fact Cumming, Georgia. The quasi memoir is a portrait of midcentury small-town life at its most idyllic. The recollections are joyful, peopled with loving family, kindly teachers, helpful townsfolk, and loyal friends, especially his best bud, Charlie Keller. Frank is shy, hesitant in sports, and passionate about reading. Early on, he began writing short stories, and in seventh grade, he was urged to begin a school newspaper. Vaughan displays a similar gift for storytelling. He is articulate and engaging, able to insert an adult-looking-back chuckle here and there as he recollects the youngsters’ preoccupations and concerns. He is especially adept at portraying young Frank’s vulnerabilities—the fear of receiving a spanking at school or the terror of being vaccinated. He refused to learn how to swim until he was good and ready, seeing no reason to go into water above his head. The collection showcases good boys getting into mischief, usually getting caught, and rather gently being forgiven—with a life lesson or two learned along the way. Although the book proceeds sequentially through eight years, each chapter is a stand-alone. Occasionally this results in some repetition of background information, but it also makes it easy for readers to jump in and out of the book at will.
Tender, if a bit sugary; may strike a chord with male baby boomers.