The Awakening by Brett McBean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Review of THE AWAKENING by Brett McBean
Coming of age novels exist in many forms and degrees of quality. I've read several, and enjoy this particular category. I've never read one to date as outstanding as THE AWAKENING by accomplished and gifted author Brett McBean. This novel repeatedly blew me out of the water. Set in the small town of Belford in the Midwest, a bigoted, isolationist community under the surface (on the surface it's a calm, peaceful, quiet little Norman Rockwell vision), THE AWAKENING is the story of three fourteen-year-old boys, leaving middle school for the horrors of high school [the protagonist once rhetorically questions, "Is anybody ready for high school?"]. Toby and Frankie have been fast friends since earliest times, Toby the only child in a nuclear family, Frankie raised by single mother and older sister since birth. The two are inseparable, and good kids as a rule. But the summer between middle school and high school is beyond nightmarish: tragedy, fatality, bigotry, shunning, and so much more.
THE AWAKENING is also the story of Jacques (Jack) Joseph, an elderly Haitian native, whose history goes back much farther than the reader would expect. In his interaction with Toby, we learn so much of Haitian history beginning in 1918 [virtually none of it positive], and of vodoun, both white and black [as Mr. Joseph puts it, with either hand--the right hand of positive spirituality, the left hand of black magic, what in medieval times sometimes went by the term "bar sinister."] So there are actually novels upon novels within the framework of THE AWAKENING, a story everyone would benefit by reading. [Sherwood Anderson, take note.]
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