Discovering you are alive Aug 1, 2009
I have to admit, I have never read anything by Ray Bradbury as I am not a huge sci-fi fan. I found this book at my local used bookstore for a quarter and my voice said "well, great chance to check him out". Afterall, he is somewhat well-known. I am genuinely happy I found the time to read this profound tale. Mr. Bradbury's prologue was just as an enjoyable read as the rest of the book. He shares a little of his writing process and how the characters, locations and events are a somewhat biographical reflection of the memories of his boyhood.
The story is set in the summer of 1928 in Green Town, Illinois and begins with 12 year old Douglas Spaulding on a grape hunting venture with his younger brother Tom and their father. Doug discovers more than grapes during this excursion - he discovers he is alive. This realization changes the way he perceives everything around him.
I'm really alive! he thought. I never knew it before, or if I did I don't remember. He yelled it loud but silent, a dozen times. Think of it, think of it! Twelve years old and only now! Now discovering this rare timepiece, this clock goldbright and guaranteed to run threescore and ten, left under a tree and found while wrestling.
The summer is broken down into individual events with each chapter essentially it's own short story. Douglas and his brother helping in the collecting of dandelions with Grandfather to make the next year's supply of dandelion wine, the discovery of a time machine right under their noses, Leo Aufmann's futile attemps to build a happiness machine, the murders of the Lonely One, the heartache of a best friend leaving and trying to make time stand still for those few last hours, Miss Fern's and Miss Roberta's antics on the Green Machine, discovering how a new pair of tennis shoes can make you fly - and so much more!
In an attempt to keep the summer alive, Douglas and his brother keep a notebook and using the trusty Ticonderoga Number 2, note all new discoveries (such as Grandpa and Dad not knowing everything in the world) and keep track of how many times the they do the same things as every other summer (like getting slivers in your feet). The notebook and the dandelion wine are reflections of the summer. This is a quiet book written in such a way that the ordinary becomes magical.
It is difficult to summarize this book. It is so simple yet, it is impossible to sum it up neatly without doing a great disservice to the other parts of the book that would be neglected. I will say that I had a few bouts of watery eyes. Not from an actual sad element in the story. I became so nostalgic while reading this (and still am) that I missed my childhood. Then I missed my daughter's childhood. Yet, the memories are grand and make my heart happy.