Greyhound by Steffan Piper (4 out of 5)
Sebastien Ranes is another one of my favorite characters. His lazy, good for nothing mother and her ex-prison inmate boyfriend think nothing of sending him off on a Greyhound bus from California to Altoona, Pennyslvania- by himself. Sebastien is 11. In the early 1980’s, when this takes place, this was not looked upon kindly. It’s the old story of a woman who meets and marries all the wrong men, and the son gets in the way, so she shuttles him off (his sister is already living with the grandparents in Pennsylvania). Sebastien has a few aces hid up his sleeve, though, starting with the suitcase he carries (you have to wait until the end of the journey to see what it is and what he does with it, but it’s brilliant). His Greyhound trip is not without its frightening moments, whether it’s a bombastic, verbally abusive bus driver to a young lady who ends up dying while on the bus. He also meets a number of caring strangers, all of whom shape his thoughts and feelings while on his first trip. Probably the most inspiring to Sebastien on this trip is his newfound friendship with Marcus, an African American man whose going home to say farewell to his father, who is deceased(he was in jail when his father passed, and he is going to pay his final respects). Marcus and Sebastien bond and enlighten each other on many things; poetry, Cat Stevens, the music of Hall and Oates, Walkmans, racism, the difference between jail and prison, stuttering, and most importantly- friendship. They encounter racism, and get through the incident with the support of each other. It’s an incredibly endearing friendship, and when Marcus gets off on his Greyhound stop, you feel bereft by the loss of this warm and affectionate man who helped calm Sebastien down throughout the bus ride. I will go on record and say I hope Steffan Piper spins Marcus a book of his own. What a great supporting character.
Sebastien’s story is one that is all too familiar. You hear about children being abandoned by their parents on the news, and unlike Sebastien’s story, not all of them have a happy ending. Sebastien’s anger at his mother’s uncaring nature is not only right on the money, but heartbreaking as well. Despite this, Sebastien tries to maintain a sunny disposition, in the face of basically being shuttled back across the country so his uncaring mother can live it up with her louse of a boyfriend. It’s that altruism that keeps you bonding with Sebastien throughout the book. I loved this book. It was light, quirky, and a quick read. It’s precisely the type of book I need to read more often, to take my mind off of the muck that is everyday life. I encourage you to pick it up if you get a chance.