When I finish a big hearty novel like "The Lacuna" I like to read something lighter, sort of an amuse to refresh the palate, so to speak, before biting into the next one. A mystery, maybe, or a romantic novel. But all I had in my stack at that time was a book Erika had sent me called "The Whisper of the River" by Ferrol Sams. It seemed at a cursory glance to be about a young man's experiences in college and I thought, "Oh, no. Another harrowing tale of a boy's being shipped off to boarding school to undergo agonizing, humiliating torture at the hands of upper classmen and sadistic professors." But it was the only thing at hand, so I plunged in.
Well, it was nothing like I had thought. It is the story of Porter Osborne, Jr., an under-sized, under-aged, very precocious son of a strict Baptist family from a small town in rural Georgia, the only white boy in all of Georgia with the nickname "Sambo". He had been Raised Right in the best Baptist tradition. It begins when he goes off to the Baptist university from which his father had graduated, and covers his four years there, ending with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. A kid more full of hell and high-jinx, you would be hard-pressed to find. His college career is filled with stunts and pranks and light-hearted mischief. But there is a lot to this boy, as well. He proves to be a clear-headed thinker, a top student, and a true and loyal friend and the book chronicles his maturing as a young man.
There are some good characters, especially one named Boston Harbor Jones, a black kitchen helper in the school's dining hall. He is a true soul mate to Jones, the character in "Confederation of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. He and Porter become fast friends and partners in some of the goings-on. There are some other interesting people, as well...... professors, Fraternity brothers, Mrs. Raleigh, the dining-room matron, Mrs. Capulet, the house mother.
I have one quibble, which is one I often have with novels: At 528 pages, it is about 200 pages too long. I think several of the episodes could have been omitted entirely and many of the rest cut down. But the book is entertaining and fun to read. A very good palate-cleanser for the next one!
The Whisper of the River Ferrol Sams Penguin Books