Friday, October 31, 2014

Boys of Blur

I have always wanted to like N. D. Wilson, the author. I loved the language of LEEPIKE RIDGE and 100 CUPBOARDS and I wanted to enjoy those books more than I did. For some reason, I could barely trudge through those stories though. So much awesome prose, but so much confusion in plot. Wilson has a wildly descriptive voice that can at times, clutter up his narrative. He trusts that his readers are smart enough to infer details left out but with such wordy prose, that is not always easy to do.

While BOYS OF BLUR is similar to the unique style of prose in his other works, I have finally found an N. D. Wilson novel I can get behind! BOYS OF BLUR is a tour de force!

In Taper, FL, among the burning fields of sugar cane, football is life. BOYS OF BLUR begins with the funeral of historic Taper football coach Willie Wisdom. Coach Wisdom's death has affected everyone in the community. Charlie Reynolds is in town with his mom's new boyfriend Mack (one of Coach Wisdom's former players) for the funeral and Charlie can't help but notice his mother's uneasy looks and nervous apprehension. For Charlie's family, a return to Taper means a return to the place they left Charlie's abusive father. When Mack receives an offer too important to turn down, Charlie may be forced to remain in Taper for the time being. Little does he know, the community of Taper will soon need Charlie to save them from a muddy, deep rooted evil.

The setting in BOYS OF BLUR is one of the novel's biggest strengths to me. Wilson takes his time developing the southern setting and soon, he pulls you in among the burning cane and swampy muck and just like Mack, you feel compelled to stay. Of course the fantasy elements of the story are foreshadowed and hinted at early on, to entice readers, but the early pages of this book are entirely devoted to Taper and Charlie's family unit. This grounds the story in reality and makes the final epic resolution all the more convincing.

I was also impressed with Wilson's handling of Coach Wisdom's character. Often times, authors will introduce readers to a character that they wish to write as "larger than life." Coach Wisdom truly is larger than life. Everyone in Taper has a story to tell about Coach Wisdom and each story is unique to the character. He has impacted the lives of many young men in Taper, none more than Mack. At one point this is evident when Mack tells Charlie about Charlie's father:

"Your father made mistakes. We all do. But instead of working to set things right, he chose to protect those mistakes - he let them be. He even fed them, which made them so much worse. Mistakes don't just hang on the wall like ugly pictures. Mistakes are seeds." He thumped his chest. "In here. They grow. They take over. You make a mistake, you gotta make it right. Dig that seed out. Old Wiz used to say, 'Fruit rots, wood rots, but lazy-ass boys rot the fastest.'"

I like how Coach Wisdom develops as a character, even after his death. Furthermore, it was fun to watch Charlie grow throughout the story. His transformation from being wide-eyed and curious to becoming a sword-wielding hero was very heartbreaking but convincing.

BOYS OF BLUR may not be for everyone what it was for me. The fantasy elements may not interest every reader and the south Florida setting and Creole lore may be too specific to generate wide appeal. But you cannot deny Wilson's talent. No one writes prose like N.D. Wilson. I can also appreciate a solo effort (everyone writes fantasy trilogies these days) and fitting it all in under 200 pages is impressive as well!

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