Valley Boy, a review by Roy Hirshkowitz

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

Valley Boy, the second novel of Jack Remick’s California Quartet, and The Deification, its first, feature protagonists of an age. (The novels of the California Quartet are stand-alones.) Although neither story could be set elsewhere than California, The Deification included some other-worldly segments. Every part of Valley Boy takes place here on earth. The only scene of wild and weird imagery is explained as a hallucination. Valley Boy has its feet firmly on the Central Valley soil of Ricky Edwards and his unhappy Bach-loving mother, Teresa. For starters, Ricky is in high school, unlike his on-the-road-Kerouac-copycat counterpart, Eddie Iturbi of The Deification. Ricky works picking fruit. He works debeaking turkeys. Remick writes his depiction of this common practice–so the birds don’t blind each other in their close quarters— with a deft and surprising gentleness. Ricky stirs up the birds and causes carnage, and he misses the signs that he may not be cut out for this work and this life. He keeps choosing the wrong path, as when he joins Linard to make money nights, debeaking. Ricky wants the wrong things—money, membership in the Lifters Car club by buying the right flashy car, and a Lifters leather jacket. Readers want Ricky to leave Centerville, play the piano and apply to college. The story also belongs to Ricky’s mother and her musical relationship with Mr. Bach. Remick almost has us hearing the complex piano music with his immersive descriptions of her playing. And Ricky plays more naturally than his mother. I loved the credibility of this novel — the talented teen torn by his own gifts and desires, perhaps squandering his future for adolescent gratifications. We’re rooting for the piano teacher, the mother, the bookshop spirit guide/seductress to reach the emerging rational mind of the teenager. I was in the Central Valley when I read this book. I smelled its fruit and dust and felt its heat. My favorite Remick book.
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