(Reviewer’s note – I am a writer and freelance reviewer. I received no compensation or inducement to review this book. Thank you. vmls)
Nancy Klann-Moren’s The Clock of Life is a rich, wonderful story with a distinctive flavor and narrative, engaging characters, and written with a compassion for some of the darkest days in the history of America.
The Clock of Life is an excellent historical fiction, which takes place in the American South in the last quarter of the 20th century. Reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird in many respects, The Clock of Life is a “coming-of-age” story about a young boy growing up in a small town in Mississippi. It is a story of truth and freedom… of injustice and inequality.
Told in ‘first-person’, in a clear, compelling voice, Jason Lee, the son of deceased Vietnam War veteran JL Rainey recounts his growing up in Hadlee, Mississippi during a time of much unrest in America. The Vietnam War and the civil rights movement had a profound and lasting impact on much of the country and Jason Lee’s ‘world’ bears much of the brunt of that… a world where racism and intolerance runs deep. Jason Lee learns a great deal about his father and the kind of man he really was through stories from others. It is from these stories that a yearning grows.
In his befriending of a black schoolmate, Jason Lee – through many trials -grows in both character and spirit, learning and appreciating the meaning and value of friendship, freedom and tolerance for others in a society that often takes freedom for granted and does not fully appreciate the sacrifices of those who went before… those who fought and died to secure and ensure freedom for all… and a society that too often turns a blind eye to tolerance and acceptance, unable or unwilling to stand up to injustice and inequality.
Jason Lee wants to be like his father.
Ghosts of the past and the realities of a society rife with injustice and inequality, Jason Lee faces many challenges – not least among them broken hearts and the loss of a very close friend – and while [growing up] he doesn’t always make the right decisions, Jason Lee, like the rest of us – especially those who also grew up in that time – learns and grows from his mistakes. He learns that while the ‘right thing’ isn’t always the easiest thing to do… it is the right thing to do.
Jason Lee is becoming the man his father would have been proud to call son.
The author brings a strong narrative style, a very definitive sense of place and a stunning eye for the idiosyncrasies of rural life in the American South to The Clock of Life. Page after page is rich with a flavor that rings true for anyone growing up in that same period and place. One of the greatest strengths of this story, I feel, is the dialogue, with its finely-balanced dialectal quality, which adds to the overall imagery through-out the story.
There is a realism and depth to the characters in The Clock of Life that is sadly lacking in a lot of the fiction on today’s market. Historical fiction especially demands richness in character, place and plot. Nancy achieves all three with such seeming ease that one forgets that this is her very first novel.
A minor scene perhaps, but like countless other ‘little’ scenes throughout the novel, Jason Lee and Samson’s first shared experience with moonshine really struck a chord with this reader; in that relatively short passage is a great deal of truth.
A constant thread through-out The Clock of Life is the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War… both times of bitter conflict in which many lost their moral compass, some never to regain it… and the inequality and injustice those events engendered, and the scars left behind.
The Clock of Life is a powerful and thought-provoking morality play, if I may use that phrase, which will have a lasting impact on the reader. I came away from this story with many of the same feelings I had after the first time I read To Kill A Mockingbird. Nancy has written a humbling and inspiring tale of the courage and the strength of the human spirit, a story that evokes in the reader a broad range of emotions and hopefully, a degree of compassion and understanding for our fellow citizens.
If there is one thing we can take away from this story, it is this….
It is one thing to know the difference between right and wrong; that’s something we all learned in the third grade. It is quite another thing to have the courage and conviction of one’s beliefs and to live one’s life for the betterment of mankind and to have empathy and compassion for the family of man. Freedom isn’t free and justice isn’t blind. We should not live our lives with the presumption that freedom doesn’t have a cost and that justice can be dispensed equally with eyes shut.
Nancy has earned numerous accolades – among them, her debut novel was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards – for The Clock of Life, which should come as no surprise, and her novel has been adopted by the Los Medanos College’s English Department, to be taught in the school’s freshman writing classes.
The Clock of Life is a “must-read” and I recommend it without hesitation. Thank you, Nancy, for a thoroughly engaging story… one that will stay with the reader for a long, long time.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
6 August 2013
(Writing under a large mushroom, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)