Opening Line: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, Mrs Powell once said from the front of my high school literature class, going on to explain that some ancient Chinese scholar made that sage observation many centuries ago."
A Wayward Wind was one of those great surprise reads as I’d never heard of author John. W Huffman before and knew next to nothing about this story when I began. I will admit to a somewhat shaky start though as I got used to his style of writing and love of exclamation marks which peppered almost every sentence in the beginning chapters! However Huffman’s a fantastic storyteller and it wasn't long before I was carried away by this gripping adventure.
Huffman does a great job here of voicing the 60’s teenager, transporting you back to a time we can all relate to; when you lived in the moment, nothing was as important as your best friends (or that first kiss) and it felt like the whole world was against you. This story often reminded me of Stephen King, in particular (Stand By Me) or (The Body). Probably because of the era it takes place in and the fact that 90% of the adults portrayed here are evil or in the case of parents left purposely vague. It also jumps back and forth between past and present and these sections are cleverly woven together by the end with our characters showing us the bond they formed and the events that marked them forever.
Its 1967, Jay Harte is just back from Vietnam, a decorated but disillusioned hero who can no longer fit into society. Along with his purple heart and bronze star Jay’s also got some serious scars, a short temper and can’t seem to find a job- since there isn’t much call back ‘in the world’ for leading men through a jungle and avoiding sniper fire. All of this pales however when he receives a letter from his childhood friend, now on death row for killing a man. The young Oliver Freeman that Jay remembers would never have been capable of such an act but it seems time and circumstances have changed both of them.
And so our story begins with Jay travelling to Angola state penitentiary and then flashing us back to the summer of 1960 when at 14 years old he and Ollie ran away in search of Ollie’s missing, and unbeknownst to them, heroin addicted mother. Hitchhiking their way to New Orleans and Baton Rouge they sleep under bridges, work odd jobs and come to rely on each other completely. Early into their adventure Hattie Trudeau joins them and with her inclusion they become the 3 musketeers. Now as well as avoiding gangsters and pimps in their search for Ollie’s mother they’re also on the run from the police and Hattie’s abusive guardian, Old Pete. The past and present eventually comes together along with an ending full of surprises.
A Wayward Wind touches on a huge scope of issues; becoming a love story, an adventure and a tragedy. Showing the bonds of friendship, the casualties of war and the horrors of addiction. Highly recommended.