#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A “nostalgic and entertaining memoir” (People) about a group of young men who dreamed of launching rockets into outer space—the inspiration for the film October Sky
“A message of hope in an age of cynicism. . . . Perhaps we all have something to learn from a half-dozen boys who dared to reject all limitations . . . and resolved to send dreams roaring to the sky.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune
It was 1957, the year Sputnik raced across the Appalachian sky, and the small town of Coalwood, West Virginia, was slowly dying.
Faced with an uncertain future, Homer Hickam nurtured a dream: to send rockets into outer space. The introspective son of the mine’s superintendent and a mother determined to get him out of Coalwood forever, Homer fell in with a group of misfits who learned not only how to turn scraps of metal into sophisticated rockets but how to sustain their hope in a town that swallowed its men alive.
As the boys began to light up the tarry skies with their flaming projectiles and dreams of glory, Coalwood, and the Hickams, would never be the same.
With the grace of a natural storyteller, NASA engineer Homer Hickam paints a warm, vivid portrait of the harsh West Virginia mining town of his youth, evoking a time of innocence and promise, when anything was possible. Lush and lyrical, Rocket Boys is a uniquely American memoir: A powerful, luminous story of coming of age at the end of the 1950s, of a mother’s love and a father’s fears, and of growing up and getting out.
Great memoirs must balance the universal and the particular. Too much of the former makes it overly familiar; too much of the latter makes readers ask what the story has to do with them. In his debut, Hickam, a retired NASA engineer, walks that line beautifully. On one level, it's the story of a teenage boy who learns about dedication, responsibility, thermodynamics and girls. On the other hand, it's about a dying way of life in a coal town where the days are determined by the rhythms of the mine and the company that controls everything and everybody. Hickam's father is Coalwood, W.Va.'s mine superintendent, whose devotion to the mine is matched only by his wife's loathing for it. When Sputnik inspires "Sonny" with an interest in rockets, she sees it not as a hobby but as a way to escape the mines. After an initial, destructive try involving 12 cherry bombs, Sonny and his cronies set up the Big Creek Missile Agency (BCMA). From Auk I (top altitude, six feet), through Auk XXXI (top altitude, 31,000 feet), the boys experiment with nozzles, fins and, most of all, fuel, graduating from a basic black powder to "rocket candy" (melted potassium chlorate and sugar) to "Zincoshine" (zinc, sulfur, moonshine). But Coalwood is the real star, here. Teachers, clergy, machinists, town gossips, union, management, everyone become co-conspirators in the BCMA's explosive three-year project. Hickam admits to taking poetic license in combining characters and with the sequence of events, and if there is any flaw, it's that the people and the narrative seem a little too perfect. But no matter how jaded readers have become by the onslaught of memoirs, none will want to miss the fantastic voyage of BCMA, Auk and Coalwood. First serial to Life. 10-city author tour. FYI: Rocket Boys is currently in production at Universal, which plans to release it later this year.
My New Favorite
So, I've got to say, anyone who's considering not reading this, please do. It's genre may end with ography but it really can keep your attention the entire way.
Thank you Mr. Hickam
A awesome book and life guide.
Best book I have ever read I love the history included in it. I recommend it to anyone