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Book review: <i>The Clock Of Life</i> by Nancy Klann-Moren

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the cover of the book

A heartbreaking coming-of-age story, where growing up is tough and the shaping of a boy into a man is fused with tragedy.

The story

In the southern states of America in 1974, the world is still very much a segregated place. Young Jason Lee has his first taste of how it can be on his first day of school, where, being his own independent person, he befriends one of the black boys in his class.

He and Samson grow up together, best friends and blood brothers, sharing everything and fighting to protect their friendship. Jason Lee discovers that this kind of righteous thinking is in his blood when he uncovers the truth about his father, who died when Jason Lee was very young. JL senior was an avid equal rights activist and marched in some of the biggest and most violent demonstrations, becoming injured but remaining determined. He considers this a sign of how right his friendship with Samson is.

Jason Lee's life outside of his contentious friendship isn't easy either. His mother never completely dealt with his father's death, and this haunts her in various ways. He also has his uncle Mooks to contend with, a Vietnam veteran who is obsessed with time and has a piece of shrapnel lodged in his head.

When tragedy strikes, it makes a man of Jason Lee. Can he rise to the occasion and close his childhood with the finesse taught to him by his family and friends?

The style

This book is so beautifully and naturally written, I never once found myself jolted out of the reading process by something that didn't work. And I read this book in airports. And on planes. And in noisy, crowded places that assaulted my sensibilities. It's not fancy narrative; it's linear, chronological, and solely from the point of view of young Jason Lee. His voice grows with him, from his first day of school until he becomes a man, and Klann-Moren keeps the strength in his narrative from the word go. Each of the characters is nicely crafted, all obviously seen through Jason Lee's eyes. And the story itself winds confidently and slowly. The references to time are pertinent because Klann-Moren is excellent and slowing it and speeding it up to suit the story, and there is a strong sense of seasons passing in the South.

By the time I got to the climax I felt like I'd been reading forever, in a good way. As though I was so familiar with all the characters. And I cried during the denouement. In public. On a plane. So points for that as well.

Who is this book for?

This is not usually my style of novel, but I really enjoyed it. Probably for people who like something a little historical, and a little political; the story deals with racism and segregation in the seventies, which is quite different from contemporary racial issues but a good look at the upheaval of the time.

If you like this book, you would also like...

I'm not sure I can think of anything similar, perhaps, in the distant recollection of my memory, To Kill A Mockingbird. Read that. It's good.

In short

Title: The Clock Of Life
Author: Nancy Klann-Moren
Publisher: AnthonyAnn Books
ISBN: 978-0-9884944-0-4
Year published: 2012
Pages: 366
Genre(s): Contemporary fiction
Review Type: