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Coming-of-age novel set in NEW JERSEY
10th May 2021
Dust by Mark Thompson, coming-of-age novel set in NEW JERSEY.
“This beautifully written debut novel would not be out of place alongside the work of Steinbeck and Philipp Meyer’s American Rust”
Every once in a while a book comes along that proves to be something just a bit special. And this is one of those books. It is a debut, published back in 2016 and it is written with skill, creativity and humour, with just enough sharp edge to keep it feeling very real.
JJ and El Greco are best buddies, aged 11, and the book opens as they are sitting by the local cannery smoking Kent cigarettes. They are essentially shooting the breeze but their caper of starting small fires balloons into a fully fledged conflagration which sees the nearby senior residence come under threat. The fire fighters arrive, the police sirens wail. They get away with not being caught by just a whisker. This is the first of several boyish escapades.
They hang out together over one summer, as the dust swirls and the sun beats down. Cecil, aka Adolf, makes JJ’s life a misery, as only an older brother can. El Greco’s father is AWOL, a good time Charlie who is pretty much always absent. They build their friendship, they cope with life and things are pretty OK. And then illness strikes, shattering the kids’ easy living….
Down the line there is a road trip with JJ’s father to Savannah, driving through the heart of America and the story just continues to flow, transported by the four wheels of the car. The author vividly conjures up quintessential America just through small observations and encounters, lingering in places along the route, savouring the essence of setting.
This is a really strong debut that is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam/American War and the escalating racial tensions. It is a beautifully written story of easy friendship, it is poignant and full of banter and wit and it blew me away.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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