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Ray Sikes creates an engaging and vivid world with characters that are altogether believable and human. This collection starts off with a dozen stories about a boy growing up in the ’60s and ’70s. As a child, he colors with only a black crayon and lives a fantasy life as a space traveler. Later, he joins his brother in a sadistic war against invading 17-year locusts and impersonates daredevil Evel Knievel on a chopped spyder bicycle. He plays sports in the days when kids weren’t handed trophies for merely showing up, gets into fights, and is both captivated and mystified by girls. Like many disenchanted teenagers of that era, he smokes dope, plays Led Zepplin songs in a cover band, and remembers exactly where he was when Lynryd Skynrd’s plane crashed. Five miscellaneous stories round out this compilation. In them a hunter feels displaced by modern life, a celebrity roast is held for a dead comedian, an old man predicts the devastation of Hurricane Hazel in 1954, an elderly lady relives her life in a night, and a botched robbery reveals hypocrisy at a neighborhood drugstore. At various times nostalgic, humorous, and poignant, these stories above all else depict life as it is actually lived.
All of them have some trenchant point to relate and leave one thinking more deeply about some aspect of our human existence.
Reminiscent of Bill Bryson’s finest, the first twelve tales in the volume are amusing, insightful and true to life. All of them have some trenchant point to relate and leave one thinking more deeply about some aspect of our human existence, though they are in no way preachy. The deeper meaning of one’s experiences is brought home without hitting one over the head with gospel truth. In fact, it came as quite a surprise to me that Sikes had already written an acclaimed spiritual non-fiction book called Keeping it Between the Ditches: Living the Christian Life. Provocative and stimulating are two words that I would definitely choose to use in reference to his latest collection. -L.C. Henderson, goodreads.com
Sikes manages to connect to his readers through universal feelings and experiences [and] makes it an interesting journey along the way…
Sikes manages to connect to his readers through universal feelings and experiences. As someone who was born in the mid-70’s and came of age in the 80’s and early 90’s, I can still relate to the story of “The Cornflakes Submarine.” What kid hasn’t lusted for a toy thanks to shrewd advertising only to discover later that they’ve been had? This is definitely not an experience limited solely to Sikes’ generation. And then there’s “Penguin Pants,” a story which anyone who’s been forced by their mother to wear embarrassing clothes in public will relate to. “Evel Knievel and Me” has two brothers trying to copy the famous daredevil’s stunts, and while we kind of see the ending coming, Sikes makes it an interesting journey along the way. -Eric Landfried, The Phantom Tollbooth