"I've come to realize we're all two different people. Our younger, innocent self that's inevitably mangled along the highway of life, and our tougher adult persona that evolves from the wreckage. Happiness comes from juxtaposing the two, nurturing the maimed spirit within you, welcoming it into your adult life and giving it the time and understanding you never received as a child, no matter how sane and loving your parents tried to be."
The Bull Years, a novel by Phil Stern, explores the lives of four friends who grew up together, and grew apart alone. The story unfolds from all four points of view, talking about how real life operates, and how everything isn't always quite how you expected it to be.
I feel like I was in an interesting position to read this novel. Primarily, it is about 40-somethings reflecting on their 20's. I'm the guy in his 20's, reading and hoping I'll never have to have these same conversations with myself.
The Bull Years is good. Not because of how it unfolds, or how it is written, but because of what it is. It's an honest, brutal, no holds barred look at the American Dream and the people who live it day in and day out. It's a book that really makes you consider what you've done in the world, or, like me, makes you contemplate what you want to do.
Phil Stern writes with a quick tongue and incredibly sharp wit, which is what makes passages like the one above (highlighted on my kindle now just so I can revisit it) such a joy to read. The book isn't strictly abrasive, as it often finds time to make comments on our social status, to the point that I'm laughing because I feel like I'm people watching anywhere around my town. And that, I think is what Phil does best. He takes a writing style with so much satirical tone, and brings it to topics and stories and things that are universally relatable. You genuinely feel for these characters, which is vital for the story to matter.
As far as the full story goes, I won't spoil it. It's available everywhere, and I would STRONGLY suggest you pick it up if my review has left you with even an inkling of interest. I'm sure you'll love it. I know I did. Enough to rank it: