(reviewed by C. G. Wagner)
The best stories are those that can be read at many levels, and "Rediscovering Lone Pine" is intriguingly multilayered. Told in the first person, present tense, the story draws the reader in at once as a confidante of the narrator, giving it the cinematic, intimate feel of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and bonding intrigue of "Stand By Me."
We join the narrator, Grant Harper, at the very beginning of a childhood mystery, sharing his internalized experiences and seeing through his mind the wild fears that his fevered imagination conjures when he realizes his friend has disappeared into the lonely wilderness. We then come of age along with Grant and his surviving gang, Hannah and Mickey, sharing their traumas, their loyalty, and the crises that would unite and reunite them, including their many searches for their lost friend Jason.
Approaching the book as a straight mystery story, this reader was trying to anticipate twists and predict the outcome - and was happily proven wrong at almost every turn. For where is the satisfaction in not being surprised by a mystery story? Was the detective investigating the disappearance of Jason merely a faux antagonist who would later become an ally? Was Grant's recollection of the events surrounding Jason's disappearance clouded by an amnesia-inducing trauma? My imaginings were nearly as fevered as protagonist Grant's.
The book's cover proclaims that "Rediscovering Lone Pine" won the Maryland Writers Association Prize for Mainstream Fiction. I'm not sure what level of literature "mainstream fiction" is - perhaps somewhere between a good beach book and high art. It's accessible and engaging; one cares about the characters, worries about them, hopes for the best. Living in their world with them is satisfying. My only complaint is that I would have liked just one more scene with my friends. We'd been through so much together!
Review posted at Amazon.com 8-26-09
On September 26, author Andrew Popper discussed and read from his book at a convenience store where we get our coffee every morning.
Photo Gallery [click on Andy]:
Photo and videos by C. G. Wagner, copyright 2009