One Boy’s Shadow, by Ross A. McCoubrey
A charming, feel-good story, from a first-time Canadian novelist…
Story blurb: Fifteen-year-old Caleb Mackenzie doesn’t put up a fight when his father announces the family is moving to Stapeton, Nova Scotia. In fact, Caleb looks forward to a fresh start in the scenic little area. Their new home, Wakefield House, sports large rooms, a big barn where Caleb can work on cars, and acres of forested land for privacy. But it also has a troubling past. In 1943, a boy who lived in the home vanished.
Caleb hears the stories about what may have occurred so many years ago, but he passes them off as folklore until one day he’s alone in the woods and hears the faintest whisper. Did someone in the distance just call his name? And what about his discovery in the hayloft? Could there be something to those old stories after all?
The initial need to dismiss everything as coincidence becomes a soul-searching journey into the past where Caleb is determined to uncover the truth about what really happened to the missing boy. And in the process, he learns even more about himself and what’s really important.
About the author: Ross A. McCoubrey was born and raised in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. After finishing college, and beginning his full time job, he bought a home on the Bay of Fundy shore where he continues to reside. When not working he enjoys writing, camping, hiking, target shooting, and working on his truck. One Boy’s Shadow is his first novel.
Ross is using the profits from sales of One Boy’s Shadow to support LGBTQ youth organizations such as The Youth Projectwww.youthproject.ns.ca in his home province of Nova Scotia.
Please visit Ross’ Facebook page for great links and information about his work.www.facebook.com/rossmccoubrey
Review by Gerry Burnie
Ever on the lookout for Canadian GBLT authors and stories, I pounced on this one the moment I saw ‘Nova Scotia.’ Ross A. Mcoubrey is a native Nova Scotian whose first novel A Boy’s Shadow [iUniverse, May 24, 2012] is directed toward young adults, and yet it is both mature and charming enough to be enjoyed by adults as well.
The operative word is “charming.” I have often asked the question of why GBLT novels tend to be so dark and angst-driven, so to find one that is universally sweet and charming—even if it is a bit overly so—is somewhat of a treat.
The basic story revolves around the adventures of four teenage boys: 15-y.o Caleb, his brother Blake, and their best friends Shane and Ryley—oh, and a ghost named Toby. Although the plots are different, I couldn’t help equating them to The Hardy boys of yesteryear—that sort of comradeship that arises when boys set out to solve a mystery.
Caleb and Blake are resettled by their parents to a new (small) town and rambling old house with a name: “Wakefield House.” [All slightly scary houses should have a name!] One of the first people Caleb meets in town is a fellow teenager, Shane, who tells him the dark history of Wakefield House, and in particular the mystery surrounding Toby’s disappearance—apparently lost in the deep woods that surround Wakefield. Nonetheless, Toby has made his presence known to several inhabitants in the past, and he does so again with Caleb and the boys.
Love blossoms as well, when Caleb and Shane discover one another, but there is no hand wringing about it. Nor is there any turmoil when Caleb comes out to his brother and parents. Okay, you might ask, could it happen this way even in 2010? Probably not, but this is a story of inspiration and love, so bearing this in mind the reader will likely be inclined to believe it—‘rooting for the boys,’ so-to-speak.
Thereupon, the boys set about solving the mystery with clues being communicated from Toby until the mystery is solved in a happy-ever-after-ending.
I should mention that, while there is intimacy, it is mostly of the sentimental kind, and anything physical is generally left to the imagination.
Having said that, I observe that there is little to identify it as a ‘down-east’ novel unless you know the Nova Scotia people. I’m not all that well acquainted, but I have visited the east coast enough times to pick up on the subtle nuances that show up now and then. It is only an observation, but I would have liked to see more—as in the unique and charming dialect.
My main quibble, however, has to do with the inconsistency of voices. At the beginning we learn that Caleb is fifteen (almost), and so I set my expectations on how a fifteen-year-old might think and speak. Sometimes these were indeed consistent, but at other times it could have been a PhD in English. Nevertheless, this being the author’s first novel, it is a damned fine effort with considerable promise. Four bees for a charming, feel-good story.
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