Published by John Vorhaus Pages: 329
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I get a lot of requests from self-published authors requesting that I review their books. They often tell me “you won’t be disappointed.” I am often disappointed. When I powered up my Kindle to read “Lucy in the Sky” by John Vorhaus, I approached it with a little trepidation. Would it be another disappointment?*
By the end of the first paragraph I was hooked. Vorhaus has a funny, irreverent, and charming writing style that reminds me of the absurdist style of Tom Robbins or Christopher Moore. (Note: I’m not calling Vorhaus absurd. “Absurdist fiction” is a legitimate genre. Read more about it here.) However much Vorhaus’ writing style reminds me of Robbins or Moore, his book isn’t absurdist fiction. Vorhaus taps into the psyche of his 16-year-old protagonist, Gene, to explore the status quo, the Vietnam war, and the rising counterculture in 1969 middle-America.
Gene must find himself within the turbulent social climate. There to guide him is his cousin, Lucy. She rocks his squishy Wonder Bread world with her arm bangles, meditation, and hippie philosophy. What’s interesting to me is that Vorhaus uses the coming-of-age story to explore a turbulent social climate That’s a perspective I haven’t encountered before. “The Catcher in the Rye” is more about alienation and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is more about the trials that teenagers face on a daily basis. I think I loved “Lucy in the Sky” because Gene is a kid who recognizes that he has a white-bread life but has no idea how to change. He has the counterculture inside of him. He just doesn’t know how to unlock it. That’s where Lucy comes in.
I always said that I was born in the wrong era. I read this book convinced that had I been a teenager in 1969 I would have been just like Lucy. The truth is that I probably would have been a square and not have done anything radical with my life. I imagine myself holed up in my room listening to the music my parents hated and thinking radical counterculture thoughts only when they were both out of the house. Lucy on the inside. Mary Jane or something equally square on the outside. Maybe I’d surprise myself. Lucy exhibits the kind of freedom that my 1969-me would have loved to have and the kind of freedom that my 28-year-old-2014-me would still like to have. Lucy represents the promise inside myself to do something/say something/stand up for something radical. I think that’s what she represented to Gene too. No matter how crazy things got in the book (and boy were they crazy) Gene’s heart never changed. I loved that best about him. It proves to me you can be radical AND good at the same time.
If I had one criticism for this book it’s that the last chapter felt like a cop-out. I suppose I was expecting the last chapter to be Gene accepting the consequences for his actions – his ability to accept everything put to the test by his father. Instead, the action ends and the last chapter is a summary of the coming years. Who dies in Vietnam. Who goes on to do this and that. I really enjoyed the changes Gene’s father was going through and I was a little anxious to see how he’d react. I felt let-down in that respect. But don’t let my expectations dissuade you from reading this remarkable novel. It touched me on a number of levels and left me with a book-hangover** when I finally finished.
In other words, read this book. I’m officially a fan of Vorhaus.
*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review
**Book hangover = unable to return to reality after reading a particularly wonderful book.
© 2014, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.