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Bud Ritter has a pretty good life. A great marriage, plenty of friends, a satisfying career…but when Bud and his eight siblings return to the quiet, coastal town of Galveston, Texas to lay their mother to rest, an unsettled feeling tugs at his heart, telling him something is amiss. The days surrounding the funeral are further complicated by Bud’s frustrating quest to reconnect with Murph, an old pal from the best days of boyhood.
Although the family has come together to bury the family matriarch, the mood is far from somber. Tender sadness is blended with vibrant recollections of growing up on Galveston Island during the turbulent and exciting days of the 1960s. As the brothers and sisters trade favorite stories, the home they lived in decades earlier, a modest and aging structure on 14th Street, becomes the focal point for memories of a wonderful time and place forever imprinted on their hearts. Over the course of a week, Bud and the other Ritters share humorous tales that occasionally border on absurdity, but they also reflect on times of poignancy, pain and family secrets. Life had been far from perfect for the Ritter kids, and carefree moments of youthful joy were tempered by financial difficulties and an overly harsh father.
Undeniably, the old homestead on 14th Street still exerts a strong and intoxicating influence on the children of Karl and Helen Ritter, and before the events surrounding the funeral have ended, an amusing plan is hatched for the entire clan to revisit the home and neighborhood they knew so well, so long ago. As the week draws to a close, Bud discovers that it is not just wistful memories behind the inexorable tug that drew the family back to 14th Street, and along the way he stumbles upon a triumphant, life-affirming message.
Seen through the eyes of a little boy, and told from the heart of a man, 14th captures the sights, sounds and essence of the sixties…a time before cable TV, Youtube and video games, when children were forever outdoors, exploring an island-sized world of running, biking, and swimming; a place where kids played for hours at long forgotten games such as kick-the-can or bottle-cap baseball; a world where neighbors dropped by and lingered for hours on the front porch, chatting, laughing and whiling away the balmy summer evenings.
Strong, genuine characters and genuine relationships make this a fast read, a book for a day at the beach. Sue Cruise’s witty and engaging novel is a tour de force that will carry the reader away on a salty breeze to a past that is undeniably magical, with a promise that today might just be the someday we’ve all been waiting for.