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Book Jacket

368 pages
Apr 2005
Multnomah Publishers

Billy Goat Hill

by Mark Stanleigh Morris

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Childhood stays with us long after weíve passed the age of innocence, and this tale of growing up too fast is a testament to the resilience of children, as well as the power that making the right choices can bring to lives riddled with despair, fear, lies, and uncertainty.

The story opens in the year 1958, and anyone who is 40-something years of age will recognize the nostalgic antics we participated in as kids. But Billy Goat Hill isnít just a story about childhood and coming-of-age. Itís a narrative about emotional and physical survival; the powerful and positive imprint a stranger can leave on a young life; and the rewards that a stubbornness to overcome can bring.

The Parker family is trying to recover from the death of an infant brother, and this motherís grief tends to distance her from her two living sons. Lucinda, as Wade refers to his mother, is a lost soul, and 8-year-old Wade assigns himself the responsibility to care for his foundering family.

Earl, the Parker brothersí father, is mostly missing--a carefree alcoholic who canít seem to connect with his role as a father. Wade wonders how life might be different if Duke Snider, the famous player for the Dodgers, were his father instead. Wade weighs most of his major life decisions while a child, against what Duke might think, say or do, and itís a running theme throughout the book.

But Wade Parkerís most urgent dilemma at 8 years old, is completing a dare to ride a cardboard sled down the infamous Billy Goat Hill on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Itís during his early morning escapade, which involves sneaking out of the house with his six-year-old brother, Luke, that the Parker brothers first meet a man and woman who will forever influence their young lives.

Convinced they will be killed for witnessing what looks like a motorcycle gang confrontation, the young Parkers instead become fascinated with a dynamic couple they first know as Scar and Miss Cherry, both of whom are police officers and who are in on a prank to initiate a rookie officer. From that moment, the Parker boys form a lifelong bond with Scar, aka Sergeant, and Miss Cherry.

At times, the Sergeant and Miss Cherry are absent from the continuing lives of the Parker boys; the incidents that separate the foursome are such that tend to happen in life, but still birth the question of ďWhy?Ē

Morris writes with a lyrical voice and uses vivid, innovating descriptions that beg to be read aloud. Morris was born and raised in Southern California, a background that brings a richness to the setting for Billy Goat Hill.

Told in first person from Wadeís point of view, Billy Goat Hill spans the defining years of childhood and early adulthood, throws in some life events in the middle and ends with Wade at 40 years old and coming into his fullness as a man of God.

Also running throughout the storyline is a thread of Christianity, which gets surfaces off and on through dilemmas and the people who come into a life. Like a needle slipping in and out of fabric, it nicely ties the story together like pieces of a well-made quilt.

This is not intended as a touchy-feely book; but it is a well-above-average, satisfying read that leaves a good feeling behind anyway. Ė Dian Moore, Christian Book

Book Jacket:

1958. Eisenhower is in the White House, Elvis is in the army, and eight-year-old Wade Parker is thrilled that Duke Snider and the Dodgers have moved west from Brooklyn. Yet all is not well in the Parker household. On the darkest day of his young life, Wade plunges into the midst of an unimaginable crisis. Worse yet, his younger brother witnessed what happened, and he canít keep a secret for a truckload of Abba-Zabbas. With an abundance of brotherly love and the unseen grace of God, the brothers venture alone on dangerous exploits around northeast Los Angeles. A powerfully imaginative coming-of-age story seasoned with hooligan humor, Billy Goat Hill is an inspiring account of a young manís quest for God. Culminating with a startling climax, the reader is embraced by the central theme of forgiveness and salvation that can only come from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.