Mark Cloud has his doubts. He's not sure if he'll ever feel at home in Fred, Texas. He's not sure that he can work up the nerve to declare his love to the girl of his dreams. He's not sure he will survive another ride with Darnell Ray, Terror of the Back Roads. And he's not really sure he buys the whole God thing. Which is an uncomfortable position for the son of a Baptist preacher.
This award-winning novel is a moving and hilarious tale set against the vibrant backdrop of the 1960s and rural America. It is the timeless and classic story of Everyteen in the hands of a master storyteller.
The coming-of-age story is a perennially attractive offering for the CBA market, and this debut from a promising novelist is an agreeable contribution to the genre. Eleven-year-old Mark Cloud arrives in Fred, Tex., by way of Ohio with a large vocabulary and a hankering for paisley, psychedelic posters and the works of artist Peter Max. He soon finds that being a Baptist preacher's kid in a hick Texas town in the 1960s leaves a lot to be desired. As Mark struggles to find his identity, he also questions the faith he's grown up with and must make his own. There's no melodrama here, no particular tension, just the slow unfolding of a slice of one boy's adolescence. Whittington has a nice command of vocabulary (refreshing for CBA fiction), although less glitzy language in places might have made for a more satisfying, smoother read. Some incidents, including Mark's precociously compassionate ministrations to a homeless woman and the contrived discovery of her parents half a continent away, will require a large suspension of disbelief. Despite the first-person perspective, the reader sometimes feels more like an observer than a participant. However, there are lovely details, generous portions of humor and plenty of nostalgia (when was the last time the protagonist of a novel sold Grit magazine?). Evangelical Christian readers, especially Texans, will find that Whittington spins an enjoyable, literary story and is definitely a novelist to watch in the CBA market.