A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
Do you recall how the world seemed to you, at times, when you were twelve? Not quite all of its pieces fit together? Mom and Dad speak in a foreign tongue? That’s how the entire novel, Ghost Horse, passes, as twelve-year-old Buddy Turner attempts to unearth this new world complicated by his parents’ divorce. McNeely recreates this vexing scenario so realistically that you feel as if you are Buddy.
McNeely’s novel is frustratingly inscrutable. What is the meaning of this little bit of conversation Buddy overhears between his parents? Why doesn’t his real father, the one Buddy knows before the man goes off to Louisiana to finish med school, return to their home, the one where his Mom lives? The author wishes for the reader to sense the utter confusion that is aroused in a child when his parents inexplicably decide to separate. Who wants “this?” is repeated over and over again, his mother or his father? He says she does; she says he does. Each parent tries to build an alliance with Buddy, one that is exclusive of the other adult.
To save himself, not really aware of his motivation, Buddy sets out to make an animated film about a horse with his friend Alex Torres, a boy he’s befriended in his old neighborhood, where he has attended a school called Queen of Peace. Even though his father now pays for him to attend an all-white school, St. Edwards, he continues to see Alex and work on the film. But all sorts of forces pull against him. There’s the horse that is constantly circling in the skies overhead, ready to pounce on Buddy’s enemies, yet is startlingly impotent when it comes to delivering real aid. Both of his grandmothers pull at him, tempting him to do one thing or another that will help him grow up into a fine man. His mother pulls at him. His father pulls at him. His father’s female friend, Mary, urges him to leave his mother and live with them. The boys at his new school attempt to initiate him into their comfortable world of long, gold cars and spacious brick homes. But Buddy is no longer comfortable anywhere, not at his mother’s place, nor at his grandmother’s, where his estranged father stays in the very room in which he spent his boyhood, while his own father lies dying but a few feet away. Buddy Turner is so uncomfortable that he begins to act out in violent, erratic ways that are not like the old Buddy.
McNeely creates one long cloudy, gray day in the Houston, Texas, of 1975—a period of painful transition from old southern city to the vibrant metropolis of today. He must repeat the word “ghost” or its derivatives scores of times. Though the experience is uncomfortable for readers, McNeely wishes for them to undergo a boy's hell of living through his parents’ divorce. And in great measure he succeeds.
NEXT TIME: MLPR Podcast 5 "Men at Sea"
Date of Original Post:
11/13/14 — Introduction to My Long-Playing Records
11/20/14 — "My Long-Playing Records" — The Story
11/27/14 — "A Certain Kind of Mischief"
12/04/14 — "Ghost Riders"
12/11/14 — "The Best Mud"
12/18/14 — "Handy to Some"
12/25/14 — "Blight"
01/01/15 — "A Gambler's Debt"
01/09/15 — "Tales of the Millerettes"
01/15/15 — "Men at Sea"
01/22/15 — "Basketball Is Not a Drug"
01/29/15 — "Engineer"
02/05/15 — "Snarked"
02/12/15 — "Killing Lorenzo"
02/19/15 — "The Age I Am Now"
02/26/15 — "Bathed in Pink"
03/12/15 — "A Certain Kind of Mischief"
03/26/15 — "The Best Mud"
04/02/15 — "Handy to Some"
04/07/15 — "Tales of the Millerettes"