Soon The Light Will Be Perfect by Dave Patterson is one of the ARCs I picked up at the OLA Super Conference at the beginning of this year. As I was going on vacation, I thought it would be a perfect time to read this novel set in the past. I did not have a chance to read it when relaxing on holiday, but when I flew back home from the Dominican Republic, I carried Dave Patterson’s novel in my bag. At 251 pages, I thought it would be long enough to read on the 4 hour return flight. Even though my husband and I were flying together, we were unlucky enough to be separated on the plane and, because there were no in-flight screens on the plane, the only thing I had to do on the journey was read.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age
A 12-year-old altar boy lives with his family in a small, poverty stricken town in Vermont. His father works at a manufacturing plant, his mother is a homemaker, and his fifteen-year-old brother is about to enter high school. His family has gained enough financial stability to move out of the nearby trailer park, and as conflict rages abroad, his father’s job at a weapons manufacturing plant appears safe. But then his mother is diagnosed with cancer, and everything changes.
As his family clings to the traditions of their hard-lined Catholicism, the narrator begins to see how ideology and human nature are often at odds. He meets Taylor, a perceptive, beguiling girl from the trailer park, a girl who has been forced to grow up too fast. Taylor represents everything his life as an altar boy isn’t, and their fledgling connection develops as his mother’s health deteriorates.
Set over the course of one propulsive summer, Soon the Light Will be Perfect chronicles the journey of a young man on the cusp of adulthood, a town battered by poverty, and a family at a breaking point. In spare, fiercely honest prose, Dave Patterson captures what it feels like to be gloriously, violently alive at a moment of political, social, and familial instability.
The novel is a coming-of-age story set in the 60s and the family described is barely getting by financially. As I was reading the story, I could imagine the setting easily as I thought back to the films I had seen on television when I was a teenager. Even though I had not grown up in Vermont during that time period, it did feel familiar to me.
The story focuses on a young boy whose mother is diagnosed with cancer. He sees his mother growing weaker – and not giving up on her tasks and responsibilities. He sees his father lose his job and taking up anything to bring in a paycheck. He sees his older brother showing interest in a girl and spending less time with him. Because of his experiences at home and in the church, he realises that he needs to decide what is important to him and what it is that he wants to do with his time. He is a young boy growing up during the Vietnam war and during a time in America when things were changing.
The book was interesting and held my attention during the flight. It is not a fast-paced read and instead ambles along as a boy’s childhood would. The content did cause flashbacks to a different time when values and social issues were different. The novel is described as a book for young adults. I would state, however, that it is a novel for teens who enjoy a more literary type of novel – Soon The Light Will Be Perfect is not one that will be enjoyed by those looking for adventure stories or even a teen romance. Instead it slowly describes the change in a twelve year old’s life over a summer period.
I did enjoy Patterson’s novel even though it is a story I would not reread. It was well-written with a sensitivity to the time period and a boy’s entrance into adolescence. Well worth a read if you enjoy coming-of-age stories.
I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019
(This novel was the 98th in my book pledge for 2019)