A touching, coming-of-age story
The year is 1981. Eleven-year-old Sebastien Ranes is put on a Greyhound bus at 3a.m. in Stockton, Calif., by his neglectful mother. With only $35 in his pocket and his final destination over 2,600 miles away, he will journey alone to live once again with his paternal grandparents in Altoona, Penn. We travel vicariously over the next three and half days with Sebastien, who turns 12 on the trip and learns many of life’s lessons during his odyssey. He befriends an ex-con, is called cute and adorable by the waitresses at the Grey Cafés, and pulls at the heartstrings of a hard-nosed bus dispatcher. The various characters that board and depart from the bus and the series of episodes that occur all serve to enhance the story.
The dynamic duo of Villagers Diane Dean and Betty Eich set the tone for the discussion of Greyhound by rearranging the meeting room so members were invited to either “board the bus” or “be seated in the café.” Prominently displayed was a U.S. map with Sebastien’s route highlighted, as well as all the stops he made along the way. Strategically placed around the map were pictures of the various models of Greyhound buses through the years. To enhance the experience further, we were treated to selections of music Sebastien enjoyed on his Walkman.
Betty suggested that this was a picaresque novel, a form of fiction from 16th century Spain. Members agreed it did indeed fit that description in the tradition of Don Quixote, Huckleberry Finn, and Catcher in the Rye. It was written in the first person; it had no plot; it was written in plain language with satire; the story is told in loosely connected adventures; the main character got by on his wits; and sympathetic outsiders helped him.
Discussion ensued as to why the author chose the year 1981 as the setting of the story. Using historical facts supplied by Diane, members agreed that the 1980s were a pivotal time in our history.
They also discussed the symbolism of the music the author chose for Sebastien.
The group was divided when it came to the issue of the Sebastien’s vocabulary. Some members thought this was certainly not the vocabulary of a 12 year old. Others thought it was very appropriate since an adult looking back on his childhood experiences wrote it.
Members also enjoyed the passages of poetry by Langston Hughes that were scattered throughout the book. The group was thoroughly delighted with this story and wanted more. They felt a valuable lesson sprang from this novel: No matter where you journey, go as traveler and not as a tourist.
The next meeting
The Bookworm Book Club will meet Dec. 17 to discuss Until Tuesday. Club chair Kathy Porter can be contacted by phone at 352.259.8196 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.