"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer of the Monkeys

by Wilson Rawls

In honor of Father's Day coming up this weekend, I thought I'd write a review of a long-time favorite, The Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls.  You may recognize the author's name from his other well-loved work, Where the Red Fern Grows.  Both are set in areas of the Ozark Mountains and are about boys who love adventure, fun and animals.  Both stories tell about a boy's coming of age, learning that the world is bigger than just them, and learning to love and give beyond themselves.

Summer of the Monkey is about Jay Berry Lee and his grandfather who love to have adventure and a little mischief as well.  They hear about award money being given to anyone who can catch a troupe of monkeys that have escaped from a traveling circus.  Thus follows a number of attempts at catching the wily and irascible monkeys.  By the end, Jay Berry learns a lot about the monkeys, his grandfather, and himself.  And a lot of funny events come along the way.

Now, you may be wondering what all this has to do with Father's Day.  Books remind me of both my parents because they both love to read.  My mother reads voraciously, quickly and with dedicated intensity.  My father is more casual but prolific and wide-ranging in subject matter.  He will randomly pick up almost any book that someone else is reading and just start wherever they have left off, in the meantime often forgetting to mark their spot.  Sometimes he takes the book home with him, leaving the owner to wonder what happens next, sometimes for a week or two on end.  When we were younger, Mom read books aloud every night (Summer of the Monkeys was one I remember) and dad would usually lay down on the couch or floor and listen with his eyes closed.  Sometimes we made the mistake of thinking he'd fallen asleep and try to get near enough to tickle him or steal his glasses.  He would let us get close and then quickly snap his teeth at the outstretched fingers and grin.

I must say that as he ages, there are more and more times when he really does end up falling asleep.  But that is for another commentary.

This particular book reminds me of my own father in a few specific ways.  First, he's a bit of a redneck and I think would love nothing more than run around in torn up overalls with a big dog and chase 'coons.  Instead he works at a desk, fixes a never-ending line of broken-down cars, and puts up with a passel of noisy grand kids.  Second, he's a lot like the grandfather in this book who thinks its a great adventure to try and catch a bunch of monkeys with some pretty harebrained schemes and contraptions to do so.  The family joke is that dad truly believes he can fix or make anything with PVC, duct tape and gray glue.  Third, for all his redneck, crazy side, my father has a tender heart, much like the men in this book.  They put a tough front up sometimes, but they love their families and it shows.  That's my dad. 

But the main reason this book reminds me of my father is that at the end of the book, Jay Berry makes a hard decision that shows just how much he has grown up, a decision that involves a lot of generosity.  If you've read it, you'll know why this particular event touches my heart so much.  My father is one of the most generous people I know, always sacrificing what he wants to try and make everyone around him happy, and I have been one of his most prolific recipients. I am grateful for his ever-vigilant love and sustaining support. And if you still don't understand why this is all brought to my mind at Father's Day, then read this entry from my personal blog and you will get a small glimpse of the amazing father I am blessed to have.

Thanks Dad.

p.s. My personal blog is private so if you are a friend and interested in reading, send me your e-mail address and I will send you an invite.

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