Two teenage boys see the many facets of 1950s America in Buzzard’s caper-filled debut novel.
Young Texans Tim and Hect are friends despite being from different sides of the tracks. After they burn down an empty shack, they think that they’ve accidentally killed a homeless man, so they go on the run. Intending to separately hitchhike their way to El Paso, they each run into increasingly intriguing and bizarre strangers. Tim winds up in Colorado, and then New Mexico, hitching rides with a touring band and the rich guardian of a Japanese World War II general’s son. Hect falls into the path of T.J. and Becca, a father-and-daughter grifter team, who adopt him into their plans. Becca’s intense desire to be a movie star eventually leads her to run away with Hect; soon, they meet up with Tim, and the trio try to con their way through Juarez, Mexico, but quickly run into difficulty. Tim and Hect’s friendship is threatened by jealousy and resentment, and they soon find themselves in bigger trouble than they could ever have imagined. When they split up once more, Tim must do whatever he can to survive his trip home. The author admits to drawing inspiration from Mark Twain, and his protagonists are something of a mid-20th century Tom and Huck. Yet the real strength of the story doesn’t come from Tim and Hect themselves; their mishaps, close calls, and stereotypical rich-kid and poor-kid mannerisms may strain readers’ belief. Instead, the book’s power comes from the colorful characters that the boys meet on their adventures. The two cut a vibrant swath through the United States and Mexico, running into a diverse cross section of humanity, and these background players, and the lessons that they teach (or fail to teach), manage to keep the tale from feeling like an obvious rehash of Twain’s work.
An amusing, if occasionally implausible, coming-of-age travel adventure.