Giving the gift of experience is one of the most important functions of literature as is conveying important moral messages and lessons. The Clock of Life does both extraordinarily well.
You gotta love a book that lets you walk in the shoes of the characters, feel their hearts and souls and live their lives. This is just such a novel. The author has an amazing ear for the unique and authentic voices of her characters. Regardless of the age, gender or race she has nailed each of them so perfectly a reader will relate to and remember them as real people.
You might not always agree with every thought the narrator, Jason Lee, has or every decision he makes (knowing what a character named Grover Peek had once done, I doubt I’d’ve helped him as Jason thought he should) but you have to admire and respect that he always acts upon principle, directed by a strong moral compass and ultimately, what’s not to love?
The narrator is named for his father, called J.L, a young white man in the south who joined the civil rights movement, marched with Martin Luther King and then fought and died in Viet Nam. Cassie, his widow and Jason Lee Jr.’s mother also believes in and works for principles of equality and justice. She raises her son and cares for her brother who suffered brain injury in that same war and during the course of this story, suffers and recovers from a breakdown brought about by an eruption of the grief she held in so many years.
Jason Lee finds an old journal of his father’s and wants to become the kind of man his father was. His best friend and blood brother is a black boy named Samson and the two of them are sometimes mocked and sometimes dangerously harassed because of their inter-racial friendship. Jason Lee’s childhood ends when a tragedy for which he blames himself takes his best friend. He copes with the overwhelming grief by helping another character who has never trusted white people since his own tragedy perpetrated by the KKK years ago. Jason Lee’s persistent kindness overcomes the man’s mistrust and what Jason Lee is able to do for the man, helps Jason forgive himself for a well intentioned mistake that ultimately led to his beloved friend’s violent demise. All these events inspire Jason Lee to create a goal for his adulthood, to be a lawyer for the NAACP.
In furtherance of this goal he attempts to find and contact an old friend of his father’s. After so many years it is not an easy task but he gets help from his new girlfriend who is equally inspired to work for equality after he offers her his father’s journal to read.
In addition to eliciting a strong empathy for a cast of characters, readers will be grateful to know, this book inspires a strong passion for justice. For supporters of the NAACP and the SPLC, The Clock of Life is definitely a must read. Readers who have not given those organizations a lot of thought will, upon finishing this important book, become supporters. Readers who have fought for justice and become burned out or cynical about making our world a better place, will be re-inspired to resume the good fight. What more can a great book do? Reviewed by Sandra Shwayder Sanchez for Book Pleasures.com