by Michael Cummings
Series: Stand Alone
Published: October 1st 2011
Publisher: Vandalia Press
Genre: Realistic Fiction / Short Stories
Jason Stevens is growing up in picturesque, historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970s. Back when the roads are smaller, the cars slower, the people more colorful, and Washington, D.C. is way across the mountains—a winding sixty-five miles away.
Jason dreams of going to art school in the city, but he must first survive his teenage years. He witnesses a street artist from Italy charm his mother from the backseat of the family car. He stands up to an abusive husband—and then feels sorry for the jerk. He puts up with his father’s hard-skulled backwoods ways, his grandfather’s showy younger wife, and the fist-throwing schoolmates and eccentric mountain characters that make up Harpers Ferry—all topped off by a basement art project with a girl from the poor side of town.
Ugly to Start With punctuates the exuberant highs, bewildering midpoints, and painful lows of growing up, and affirms that adolescent dreams and desires are often fulfilled in surprising ways.
I don't know how to start this review but here it is...
The story started with Jason and his mom driving somewhere having this drift between them I don’t understand. They met this artist and I don't know why his mom was sort of reluctant to give him a lift. It was sort of confounding and I don't see the meaning of this chapter. Oh! Enlighten me please.
There's this part where Jason's dad talked about guns, I don't have any interest in knowing the history of guns, so I didn't digest that seriously. Just so you know, I did not read the synopsis, haven't heard this book before, so I didn't have any idea what was it all about.
The meeting with Marty and Pat started somewhat off, as if they are on a drama, especially Jason's parents. The mood is set to caution: every move, every word, every smile has some meaning and they are very cautious of it. Maybe afraid to give or show something they are not supposed to. But when Jason's dad started playing a musical instrument, all the rigidity were gone and smiles are now genuine. One thing I can say, this Stevens family is very weird.
I started hating them when they did what they did to the cat. "Whatever it was, if it was ugly to start with, or turned ugly, we were ashamed of it and wanted it to go away." This family is sick, dysfunctional and very negative. Their father pushed them to isolate their selves from people. Reasons were mentioned but I still don't understand why.
Every chapter has this different mood, different story and I had a hard time connecting them all. I thought I hated this book all the way but my outlook changed towards the end. A little bit boring, this book isn't really good but not bad too. The story is really deep and you just have to dig deeper.
I got this book from the author for review, it has no way affected my review of the book.
About the Author
John Michael Cummings’ short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Iowa Review. Twice he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. His short story “The Scratchboard Project” received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007. His novella The House of My Father, from which his debut novel was adapted, was a finalist in the 2006 Miami University Novella Contest.
The Night I Freed John Brown is Mr. Cummings’ powerful first novel for young readers. A native of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, he draws on his own experiences growing up in this intriguing historic town.
John Michael Cummings lives in Orlando with his cat, Sentry.