The acclaimed author of seven works of adult fiction, Ron Carlson hits a homerun with his first novel for young people. Set in the 1950s, The Speed of Light is a wonderfully resonant book about a trio of baseball fans and their summertime adventures. On the cusp of adolescence, Larry, Witt and Rafferty have just finished their final year of grade school. High school looms on the horizon, along with a summer of changes, both subtle and substantial. Larry, the narrator, worries his parents will discover that he has become a girl-watcher and a fighter, instead of the perfect son they believe him to be. His friend Rafferty is dealing (inadequately) with his single mom's macho boyfriend, while Witt has it the roughest, with his run-down house and abusive father. But the plethora of gadgets in his basement and the broken-down car in his yard make Witt's place the most fun.
Distilling the essence of summer bikes and bullies, playgrounds and thunderstorms Carlson creates a fertile field for the boys' youthful imaginings. While Witt is the "brain" of the bunch, Carlson realizes that all three characters contribute to the wondrous milieu that is childhood, and he lets each boy make his own personal discoveries, some of them not so pleasant. Larry's introduction to the mechanics of the opposite sex is priceless, Rafferty's emergence as a baseball player is touching, and Witt's attempts to resurrect a dead lizard are hilarious. What a summer it is! Reading about the intricate nighttime dance the boys call "car baseball" is worth the price of the book.
Ron Carlson's take on growing up in the late fifties feels uncannily true and pure. His prose is eloquent and beautiful: "Now it rains every afternoon. The clouds proud and fat, darkening after four and spilling huge and fragrant showers that last an hour." Like the end of summer itself, the final pages of the novel seem to come too quickly. With The Speed of Light, Carlson has written an eloquent tribute to childhood that young readers will love. James Neal Webb writes from Nashville.