Coming of Age

I return from my break revitalized and full of literary wiles.  And said wiles implore me to advocate a book by newly minted novelist Erik Raschke, The Book of Samuel.  This novel is wholly relatable in that it hearkens to a lot of the fundamental truths of what it is to be an adolescent, from the awkwardness, to the sense of isolation that can often seem unbearable when on the journey to adulthood.  However, there is something deeper to this novel, beyond a mere exploration of the transition from childhood to adulthood:  the tackling of difficult issues like religion and racism.

In telling the story of Samuel Gerard, amid the humor and the turmoil, we see a sort of unabashed look at issues that often remain untouched in novels intended for young adults such as this one.  Samuel’s father, a religious fanatic and former psychology professor, leaves the family in search of some real notion of meaning, forcing Samuel to make certain evaluations about faith and its role in society, rarely something that would cross the mind of a kid his age.  Nevertheless, the issues of religion, and particularly how divisive it can be, permeate the novel.  And the character of Samuel, who seems to merely be seeking objectivity and understanding, is a brilliant lens through which to explore such an issue.

Samuel also finds himself antagonized by the “Mexicans,” who are portrayed as a sort of incomprehensible Other throughout most of the novel.  Samuel seems to have a notion that he is somehow different from them.  And the racist ranting of his grandmother only works to confuse Samuel, who has otherwise been brought up under the auspices of quite liberal parents.  It is this internal conflict about who and what is right that drives the novel to a great climax that results in a significant sacrifice on Samuel’s part.

The Book of Samuel is a quick, enjoyable read that does what most novels of its kind fail to do:  it inspires meaningful thought.

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