Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: Greyhound by Steffan Piper

For Sebastien Ranes, the past eleven years of his life have been an exercise in futility in getting his mother's love and attention. Charlotte, his mother, does the best she can for him when she thinks about it and when her attention isn't on the man in the current line-up. Sebastien is not that man. He is an encumbrance and he is in the way, a stuttering embarrassment that will not make her upcoming marriage or honeymoon better, except by his absence. At least she is willing to drive Sebastien to the Greyhound bus station in Stockton at 3 a.m. to begin his trip back to her ex-husband's mother and father's home to live with his older sister Beanie. He's eleven, almost twelve in a day or two, and capable of taking care of himself, all evidence to the contrary forgotten as soon as the ticket is bought and Sebastien ready to board the bus as she and her current fiance get on with their lives. Sebastien knows what to do and will just have to handle whatever comes.

That is the beginning of Sebastien Ranes's education and the end of his childhood, what childhood there has been for him so far. Steffan Piper takes the rest of the journey across the country to Altoona, Pennsylvania showing how a boy ignored by his mother and her boyfriends/husbands/exes finds the world is less cold and uncaring than his previous years have shown.

Sebastien finds people willing to look out for him and care for him along the way, especially Marcus, a recent ex-con heading home to New York City to be with his moms and visit his pops's grave. Marcus is an unusual young man who shares the poetry of Langston Hughes with Sebastien and steps up when his young friend is nearly kidnapped and raped by a predator working the Greyhound lines. When the young man walks away from what could have been the end of his road, he carries with him Leigh Allen's driver's license. Marcus took it from the bruised and bleeding pedophile and gave it to Sebastien to keep and use if necessary.

Steffan Piper illustrates what I have always believed: people are basically decent and generous. Piper shows the kindness of strangers, and their disgust and horror at Charlotte's disregard for her son's safety and life. Charlotte's off-hand treatment of her young son is echoed by her sister, Sharon, in Los Angeles where Sebastien meets Marcus as he waits out the hours between busses alone and forgotten. Aunt Sharon never shows up, but a bus driver with a nasty attitude, Frank, demonstrates that there is cruelty in the world, something Sebastien knows all too well, from the people meant to protect and guide. Frank's rabid racist attitude toward Marcus sets off a chain reaction of retribution that will fundamentally change Sebastien's life and make the future far less bleak.

Although Sebastien's journey carries him through day and night, Piper keeps to the shadows, making the kindnesses brighter and the dangers much darker. I could not help but admire Marcus's generosity and hard won wisdom as he helps safeguard and guide Sebastien through danger, fire, and change. Greyhound earns 5/5 stars for Steffan Piper's vision and for the complexity and intricacies of the road to manhood and the utter simplicity of dealing fairly with fellow travelers on the road of life. Piper and Greyhound deserve twice as many stars.

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