Reunion by Rick Hautala
I am naturally suspicious coming of age stories. I think they’re cloying and overly sentimental, written expressly to tug on the heartstrings of middle-aged folk who think that youth is wasted on the young (It is.).
I am, however, quite fond of coming of age stories that have an element of horror or the supernatural in them. For some reason, they seem more real, more truthful, than the usual mainstream mush. Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree and Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life come to mind. Both engaging, with storylines that draw you in, both of them making me wish I had been a 13-year old boy instead of a 13-year old girl (not that being a 13-year old girl was a bad thing).
Reunion, Rick Hautala‘s novella, falls into the second category. It’s a plus for me that it’s set in the late 1950s. I grew up reading stories set post war, so supernatural stories set in that era make me strangely nostalgic.
The story starts off with best friends Chris and Jackie, who are out camping in Jackie’s backyard. It is the summer before they enter junior high, their last summer as “kids.” Chris gets it into his head to sneak up to the country club where a reunion is taking place.
This runs parallel with the story of John, a man in his 50s who is heading to his high school reunion, bringing his reluctant wife along.
Reunion starts off pleasant, two boys enjoying the last few weeks of summer, interspersed with an old guy trying to get to a party. Once you hit page 37 though, you won’t want to put the book down (I have Reunion to blame for my eye bags). This is when everything starts to make sense, everything clicks into place. And while you think you know what’s coming, you find yourself turning pages faster and faster because it’s the journey that’s fun and not the destination, and Hautala does have a way of taking a classic concept and telling it in a way that is his own.
Reunion is a different sort of coming of age book. It doesn’t so much serve you a happy ending as kind of a hopeful one. It concludes satisfyingly enough, though I couldn’t help wishing that it had gone on much longer, except to do so would probably work better on film than on paper.
And because the book mentions the Everly Brothers, I thought they’d be fitting musical accompaniment.