Gerald Coomer,
The Summer I was Seventeen: A Story of the Appalachian Trail
(Xlibris, 2002)

This novel is a coming-of-age story written in a blend of essay and narrative. It is written with a very personal sensitivity and is contemplative reading. The author speaks about moments in the Appalachian wilderness and a young man questions himself, his companions and his beliefs. The grandeur of the mountainous wilderness is a great feature of the story, too.

A great thing about the book that make it timeless are the questions about human sexuality, especially about relationships between men and youths. There is information here that answers questions with definitive information that rings true and sincere without being judgmental.

The story is a journey that many young men must make; the setting may be different for all but the questions remain the same. It is also a story about values. It questions whether the values we inherit are the ones we wish to keep all our life.

The only drawback to the book is that the narrative is fairly formal and dates itself that way. The personal journey is modern, the wilderness appreciation is modern, the topics raised are modern, but the dialogue is old.

Nevertheless, I think this book fills a gap. It fulfills a need in adolescent literature and should be on the list of suggested readings parents make for their young sons. And though I think it was written for young males, I'd include it on a list for daughters, too; so they too can be aware that young men have values and questions and are actively searching for beauty and truth.

This book is a reminder to us all that human nature, even with all it's questionings and frailties, is still a beautiful thing.

by Virginia MacIsaac
21 October 2006

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