Apr 262006

Some time back I wrote about how proud I was of one of my best friends, Paul Shepherd. Paul is a writer, and like most writers had worked for a long time on a book. His book was selected for the Mary McCarthy prize which included having the book published.

I caught up with Paul a couple of month?s ago when he did a book signing in Sarasota. Even though Paul lives in Florida, we go long stretches without visiting with each other. But I know what a special friend he is because we just seem to pick up where we last left our conversation. Paul is the one person I can talk to about anything. So while that has nothing to do with his book, I wanted you to know what a great person he is.

I felt terrible when I did see him. While I had pre-ordered a copy, so received it almost immediately on publication, I hadn?t yet read the book.. Lately, time constraints have caused me to have little time for reading, and I have to grab it in little pieces. Paul?s book, however, captured my attention, and I read during all my spare time. Luckily, I?ve been back on the road some, and airports and airplanes are great places for me to read.

This evening, on my return flight from Chicago, I finished the book. The book is titled, More Like Not Running Away.

I?ve always known Paul had great depth of feeling and passion, but never so much as I know now. The story takes us all over the country following a family with a father that seems to always be running from his past and his personal demons. The narrator is his young son. We follow Levi as he grows and matures, and deals with some very serious issues.

I suppose the story is somewhat sad, but it doesn?t end as a tragedy. It?s a well told tale, and Paul did such a great job of depicting the scenes that I could almost see the movie in my mind?s eye as I read. I was able to develop a clear picture of the characters and locations of the story. While my version of the ?movie? wasn?t a standard Hollywood crash-bang car chase kind of movie, there was an underlying tension that kept me involved and wanting to see how it all ended?right up to the last chapter.

I especially recall one of the scenes of Levi and his sister Carson playing in a stream near one of their homes. They were making little boats of leaves. This was especially poignant for me, as I remember the same adventures with a neighbor when I was around four or five years old. We lived in Canton, N.C., and had the most wonderful couple living next to us. Derris and Decey Jenkins. Derris worked at the local paper mill, but in the basement under their little house had the most wonderful wood working shop. Derris made most of the furniture in their home, and it was of amazing craftsmanship.

Anyway, he was never too busy to spend some time playing with me, and let me help him make some wonderful things. A small creek ran along the side if his property, and we?d go out and make leaf boats too. We called them Indian canoes, as we would pinch a small hole and stick a tiny wildflower through them. The tiny blooms on top of the stems were the Indian head dresses. Reading about someone doing that in Paul?s book brought back some wonderful memories for me.

As I said, it?s a well told tale, and I hope you?ll read it sometime. It has already made it to a second printing.

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  1. I’m John’s sister and while I did not get to live next door to the Jenkins, I too have very fond memories of our visits there and floating leaf boats on the creek. John, this is a wonderful tale and I have just gone to my local library web site and had Paul’s book saved for me to pick up on Monday.

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