Sebastien Ranes’s single mom and her feckless boyfriend can’t be bothered to take care of a stuttering 12-year-old. Banished to live with his grandmother on the far side of the country, the boy can barely understand a bus schedule when he gets dumped at the Greyhound station in Stockton, California. Given $35 and a one-way ticket to Altoona, Pennsylvania, Sebastien must cross the country - alone, without a clue how to fend for himself.
Filled with youthful anger and naïveté, Sebastien heads out into the "Morning in America" of Ronald Reagan’s 1980s, encountering temperamental bus drivers, charming, shifty, and downright dangerous strangers, the music of Daryl Hall and John Oates, and an ex-con named Marcus, who takes the boy under his wing. In an unforgettable trek that evokes Oliver Twist and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the unlikely pair lurch from one misadventure to another, tumbling toward an elusive understanding of where and how, in a troubling world, to look for light.
©2012 Steffan Piper (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
As I began listening to this story, I had an instant kinship to Sebastian Raines, an almost 12 year old boy abandoned by his mother at a Greyhound station in California. And so begins a heartwarming road trip across America with a sweet young boy entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers. Narrator, Nick Podehl, perfectly captures the voices of the never-ending array of strangers Sebastian encounters drivers, waitresses, convicts and pedophiles. He does them so well that I had to check that this was not a dramatized book with numerous narrators.
I wanted to much to LOVE this story. But in the end, I only ever liked it. Author, Steffan Piper, almost gets you there, and you, the reader believe you are on your way to something like a modern-day Huckleberry-Finn. But he never fully delivers. The story is at its best when the author shares vignettes with varying strangers. But as the story wore on, and the strangers all disembark, and the story transitions toSebastian`s back story. This is where the author lost me. In a typical novice writer's flaw, he failed to show me the story. Everything is told. In fact, it is over-told, as though the author did not trust his reader to get it - Sebastian has a terrible mother. Sebastian stutters. Sebastian needs to become a man.
I wanted very much to LOVE the interracial, intergenerational story of Sebastian and Marcus (a kind-hearted convict who teaches Sebastian what kind of man he can choose to be), but then it just fizzles out. What began as a tale I could not wait to return to, ended with an adolescent`s self analysis that I was just as eager to finish.
Almost perfect. But the distance between perfect and almost perfect is equal to a Greyhound bus trip that ends in Albequerque, and one that ends in Altuna.
What an enjoyable tale! 11 year old oddball Sebastien is put on a Greyhound train by his no-account mother to go across the country alone to live with his grandparents. On the way he meets Marcus, a thirty-something black man returning home after a prison sentence, who acts as a sort of father figure and protects him on his journey. Lots of strange things happen on the journey, and they become true friends, each other's experiences and perspective enriching the other's in their three days together. It's a little bit sad, often funny, and overall heartwarming. Set in the late 70's, complete with cassette tapes and payphones.
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