Thursday, January 03, 2019

Memoir Review: The Light Years

Back in November, Victor Lodato, author of the wonderful novel, Edgar and Lucy, told me about an amazing memoir that he helped edit. We had met at Booktopia VT two years ago, and he thought I might be interested in reviewing The Light Years by Chris Rush, so he sent me a copy. Everything he told me about this stunning memoir was spot on, and I was very moved by this truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story of a unique childhood. It also made me laugh out loud...a lot!

The memoir opens with a hilarious scene from when Chris was 11-years old in the late 60's, where he and his little brothers and two neighbor kids play Poison, a game Chris invented where they pretend they've been poisoned and then each fall in a dramatic death scene, one at a time. Chris, with his penchant for drama, is the last to die, giving a final speech (in his underwear) beseeching God just as his parents walk in with the local priest. It's a very funny scene, giving a hint of the humor woven throughout the memoir, but it also provides a brief glimpse into his father's violence and his mother's instability (and own sense of drama). Chris' love of dressing flamboyantly plus very high IQ test results both make his father nervous, and he is sent away to a series of boarding schools. By the age of thirteen, though, Chris has given up on school, is into drugs, and heads out West to follow in his older sister's footsteps as a drug dealer and member of the counter-culture. As an impressionable young boy, he is pulled fully into the world of drugs and hippies, coming of age among drug dealers and young adults who protect him but also endanger him. They accept him as he is, though, which is a powerful feeling for a boy who feels like an outcast, who was literally cast out of his own home. His wild life also leads to episodes of violence, loneliness, and disappointment, as he struggles to find love and home.

Chris' story is powerful and moving and sometimes horrifying, but he tells it with a marvelous sense of humor that frequently made me laugh. The short chapters are divided into short sections, so the pacing is just right, and he tells his story very honestly but without self-pity or judgment. Chris suffered a lot of injustices in the world, from his family (especially his father), his peers, and strangers for being different and for being gay. Somehow, miraculously, he came out the other side and seems to have matured and grown up into a normal adult, able to look back on these crazy years of his adolescence with humor rather than bitterness in this stirring and engrossing memoir.

368 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Light Years is due for release on April 2, 2019. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon.


  1. I think I'd enjoy this!

  2. This sounds intense, but really good.

    1. Helen - Intense, yes, but also very funny on almost every page, so that balances things out.