Powerful settings have a way of making a lasting impression and for Kevin Collins and his friends; Ryan’s Woods on the South Side of Chicago was such a place. Kevin and his friends engage in all kinds of adolescent boy antics and spend countless hours roaming the woods and their Chicago neighborhood. Kevin is a mature narrator for a fourteen year old and the novel is packed with people, action and just the right amount of nostalgia for simpler times. Ryan’s Woods embodies an old version of America, but highlights and cultivates familiar childhood memories and feelings that transcend time.
Kevin and his friends, a lively and unruly bunch, spend a lot of time being kids, playing ball, talking about girls, rough housing, teasing and learning. There are sentimental moments between the boys and other characters as well as bullies, parents, teachers and dream girls that pepper the novel with a wide variety of faces. Not all characters need to be remembered, but the book is not over saturated with story lines. The reader simply follows Kevin along and sees what he sees. Kevin is quietly contemplative, while at the same time, feisty, smart and ready for adventure. There is a level of maturity in his character that makes the reader give pause and allows for deeper thought about a simple situation, such as a group of friends playing baseball, to see what other meanings lie within. When an important member of the circle, Jackie who is one of Kevin’s best friends, dies tragically and in front of the group, the boys struggle to remain the same, but without Jackie. The lesson they learn is that you can still be you, but just a different version.
Ryan’s Woods is full of profound conversations, observations and unbridled boyhood wonder and innocent musings that actually make sense and invokes those all too familiar feelings that everyone had at this time of life. Growing up is not always pleasant or easy to understand and the setting of the woods in 1962 and the events of that time make this book a thoughtful read. Author Patrick Creevy makes long sentences conversational rather than run-on and as a result, the book seems to flow along in the language of youthful, typical boys who often speak in hurried and distracted tones, perfectly. This may seem like an impossible technique, but Patrick Creevy is an excellent storyteller and Kevin’s story feels like a favorite relative is sharing his youth.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided by Patrick Creevy.