Monday, March 24, 2014

A Review of "Reichold Street" by R. L. Herron

[Preface about my reviews: I do not write reviews that give away the story, telling you the premise of the book and possibly becoming a “spoiler alert.” I figure that if you want to know more about books these days, you can click on the various “Look Inside” features booksellers offer and read enough of it to get a feel for the writing. You can also go to the author’s website and see if they have a “Sneak Peek” section of the work. You can even read other reviews that reveal more. I also rate my books on two different scales. My Star-Rating Scale is posted below. The other is the rating system used in the movie industry (G, PG, PG-13, etc.). I feel this rating too is a much needed element in reviews today and helps the reader know “who” should be reading what when it comes to children and young adults.]

Reichold Street is written in a themed, anthology style. What does that mean? Like most anthologies which are compilations of separate stories centered on a common theme, the author states in the foreword that he used this anthology style and wrote several short stories revolving around a theme. Together, these stories form a “coming-of-age” novel about a man named Paul. His friends call him Paulie.

Told in first person from Paul’s perspective, it starts in August of 1962 in the mythical town of Brickdale, on Reichold Street, of course. From the beginning, another character emerges alongside Paul. His name is Albert Parker. The story is as much about Albert as it is about Paul. Their interactions—from high school when Albert’s family moves to Brickdale to their involvement in the Vietnam War—are chronicled in this short-story format, following the lives of these two young men.

The stories delve into several issues: dysfunctional families who deal with domestic abuse and alcoholism; strained friendships; unsympathetic educational professionals; the ravages of war including death; and suicide.

The author tells us in the Afterword that all the accounts and locations are fictitious, except for the account of the attack on Cu Chi Base during the Vietnam War on March 10, 1969. As you read the stories, you get a sense that the author is pulling from real-life experiences either from his own life or people he knew over the years. The circumstances described are sometimes too detailed to not believe they are, at least, rooted in someone’s real life.

This book is not a “feel good” read in the “puppies running in meadows filled with flowers” sense, but if you are into this genre and like gritty, character-driven stories, with some rough language from time to time, then it might be up your alley. You might even see it as a “feel good” story because the main characters do develop strong ties.

It’s not the kind of book I’d pick up and read off the shelf, but that’s because this genre is not one I read very often.

On my scale (see below), I rate this 3-stars because I’m not into this genre very much. However, if you are, you might like it. I also rate it PG-13 for violence and language.

My Scale:
5 stars – It doesn't matter what genre you read, this book is a must read! It’s all about “story.” You won’t regret it.
4 stars – This may not be your genre, per se, but I feel confident you’ll enjoy it, nevertheless.
3 stars – This book will be a good read if this genre is one you really like. If it is not “your genre,” then your final thoughts may vary, but I don’t disparage it in any way.
2 stars – This book had potential, but fell short, in my humble opinion. Genre or no, it was all about the writing and the story, or the lack thereof.

1 star – If you buy it, read it, and spend any of your time on it, do not blame me. You were forewarned.

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