by Craig Alan Johnson
Published by Bellwood Press
139 pages, 2005
The Patterns of Waves
Reviewed by Mary Ward Menke
Eleven-year-old Ray has trouble sleeping. Taking his father's advice, he writes in his journal -- random, fragmented memories and images, coming together in a pattern. Patterns are important to Ray. A well-read, gifted child, he sees patterns in everything, including the ocean waves.
In Wave Watcher author Craig Alan Johnson invites us into a world filled with uncommon, yet thoroughly believable, characters. Ray's father is an American whose mother is Iranian. Ray's own mother is Brazilian of African descent. The story takes place in Brazil, where Ray's father, a writer, perseveres in attempts to have his work published.
Ray's brother Louie, who is two years younger, was born with an enlarged heart and just one lung. Through a series of childhood accidents, he severs his index finger and part of his middle finger, as well as part of his ear. He also suffers from a learning disability which prevents him from reading, and yet, "Louie knows more stuff about more things than any other nine-year old. Like it takes 155 years for a white cedar to grow 4 inches ... for every human on earth, there are 200 million insects."
This close-knit family creates their own distinctive patterns. They don't celebrate New Year's Eve until "the real beginning of the new year," the spring equinox on March 21, which is also the parents' wedding anniversary. Mom, who works as a nurse, sits down every Thursday evening to pay bills while "the 'men in the family' vacuum the rugs and iron her uniforms." Yet when Ray tells his dad about his theory regarding wave patterns, his dad cautions him that "patterns lie ... or perhaps mislead." A tragic event proves Dad was right.
Wave Watcher is unique in its focus on male relationships -- fathers and sons, brother and brother. Ray and his father have a "special telekinetic relationship ... as far back as I can remember ... I've been bumping into the thoughts of my father. And he into mine. We have found ourselves completing each other's sentences. Feeling each other's happiness. Each other's pain. Fear."
The rhythmic phraseology of Wave Watcher complements the pattern theme, while staying true to the language of a preadolescent.
Author Craig Alan Johnson is a principal and educator who has published several academic works. Wave Watcher is his first novel and, according to the book's press sheet, is already "being used in English classes, middle school advisory programs, parent-child book groups, and has been deemed an instant classic." It is truly a treat for the literary soul. | October 2005
Mary Ward Menke is a contributing editor to January Magazine and the owner of WordAbilities, LLC, providing writing and editing services to businesses and individuals. Her work has been published in The Toastmaster, Dog Fancy and Science of Mind magazines, in the Suburban Journals (a weekly St. Louis community newspaper) and on STLtoday.com.