I just finished reading Adventures in Nowhere by John Ames. I read it as part of a PumpUpYourBook promotion but I would have chosen this book to read anyway.
It was sad and sweet and funny and heartbreaking and disturbing. It was a thought provoking Huckleberry Finn kind of book.
The story revolves around Danny Ryan, a 10 year old who lives near the Hillsborough River in Florida in the 1950’s. He has a profoundly dysfunctional father. His father is cruel and reclusive and has unexplainable outbursts of fury. Danny’s mom tries to keep things together while working and caring for a terminally ill daughter, Ruth. There is another daughter, Loretta, still in high school, who is defiant and is the only Ryan who will stand up to their father.
Danny is left to his own devices. He has a friend who is hounded by his overly religious parents. This friend, Alfred, has “boundaries” that have been set by his Bible welding parents and he rarely steps over his boundaries. He has other friends…Buddy…who has an alcoholic for a father and Abigail…who tries to get him interested in Nancy Drew books. And a mystery woman named Donna…who seems to only confuse Danny. And there is always the mystery house across the river that seems to be ever changing in Danny’s mind.
Danny seems to try to spend his days staying out of trouble but trouble manages to find him. His shoes have holes in them, he is always getting bruised and cut and scraped and people seem to try to help him but he doesn’t appear to really believe that he can be helped. He sleeps in the dismal living room of his trailer like home and worries about getting to the only bathroom because he has to cross the path of his father to get there. He wakes up each morning, grabs some cold cereal and leaves his house barefooted to get himself through the adventures or frustrations of his day. His mom cares but is more consumed by keeping Ruth alive than to worry that much about Danny.
It seems as though people care for him. Alfred’s parents try to help him in an odd sort of way. The cigar selling shop owner tries to help him but I always got the impression that Danny tries not to need them. It is ultimately Buddy…his canoe building new friend who helps Danny achieve peace.
Again…this is one of those sadly sweet stories…I read it straight through.
Usually stories like this leave me feeling sad and blue for a bit but I left Danny feeling hopeful. His mom has a new job in a health food store and although Danny is not a huge fan of wholesome whole wheat bread and misses his dad’s mushy white bread…I get the feeling that Danny will be all right.
He was such a survivor and such a sweet character that I need to believe he will…