A boy, a bike, and a paper airplane in 1968 Laguna Beach California
“A Thousand Steps” is about a boy, his bike, and the beach, a simple premise in a richly complicated story. It is an immersive experience; readers witness events in real-time along with the characters. There are two main stories whose characters are irrefutably intertwined. The first is the city of Laguna Beach, California in 1968, a time when things are beautiful, artistic, absurd, natural, and wild. Laguna is home to old money and the newly rich, dedicated surfers and outlaw bikers, free-living hippies and duplicitous hypocrites. Cultural differences are both celebrated and despised. It is home to the legal, the illegal, and everything in between.
The second story is about a boy, his bike, and a paper airplane. Events unfold from the viewpoint of sixteen-year-old Matt Anthony who has one foot entrenched in childhood and the other reaching for maturity. He is living in this trendy beach city, without functional parents, with a sister who is missing, and a brother in danger every day in the war in Vietnam. Readers follow along as he struggles with completing his daily paper routes, looking for his missing sister, and finding paper airplanes. Matt is both an observer and a participant; he is an evaluator of events and the instigator of them. He is growing physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually with and without the help of those around him.
Parker presents readers with a portrait of a unique time, place, and people. His skill with words makes simple events come to life. There is not just music but notes falling from the air like rain. The sky is gray-orange with the sun a perfect half-circle above the horizon. People watch, their figures almost colorless in the vanishing light. The night sky has a waxing gibbous moon. Thoughts blur like bike spokes on a downhill run.
“A Thousand Steps” is so much more than just a “coming of age” story; it is the transformation of a boy into a man while struggling to hold his world together in the midst of chaos. I received a review copy of “A Thousand Steps” from T Jefferson Parker, Macmillan-Tor, and Forge Books. The story depicts people in a time and place that is like no other; time flies past in seconds but events are not gone, just shelved, like books, like drawings in a pad that one can open and study. When I finished reading it, I knew I might never read a more memorable book.
Don’t miss this wonderful story map of “A Thousand Steps” with photos of locations in the book. https://tinyurl.com/athousandsteps