Review: “Summer of the Monkeys” by Wilson Rawls

Wilson Rawls contributed memories of his own boyhood and a stirring familiarity with the landscapes of Oklahoma to describe the setting and the characters of his poignant novel, Summer of the Monkeys.

Jay Berry Lee is an ordinary boy living with his parents and his sister on a farm near the Ozark Mountains in Oklahoma.  He has his faithful hound Randy and his understanding grandparents to complete his happy existence.  However, his fervent wish to own a rifle and a pony are the sole objects of his dreams and ambitions; his parents’ only desire is to be able to medically correct his sister’s crippled leg.  Cause and effect take place when Jay Berry and Randy discover a group of lost circus monkeys in the Ozark bottoms.  Hearing about the monetary reward offered for their safe capture, Jay Berry resolutely decides that he will be the recipient no matter what, resulting in an unlikely adventure that transforms him from a boy into a young man.

Jay Berry’s mishaps and struggles with the monkeys are simultaneously humorous and serious.  His determination is firm even after being defeated in a battle with his antagonists, enduring accidental hangover, and witnessing the failure of all his strategies and traps.  Nevertheless, when a change in circumstances directs his goal to him, Jay Berry becomes entangled in another conflict, this time with himself.  His boyish wants and his true wish are at odds when he sees his sister suffering.  The author convincingly portrays Jay Berry’s point of view through an entertaining first-person narrative.  He also emphasizes the importance of altruism, the difficulty of sacrifice, and the necessary respect due to animals’ lives.  Summer of the Monkeys also focuses on the triumphant power of familial ties, the possibility of miracles, and the passage from childhood to adulthood.  No moment is more moving than when Jay Berry makes his greatest sacrifice.  Wilson Rawls created in this novel a meaningful masterpiece whose strength and impact will last forever.

Original review: Wilson Rawls proves himself to be an astute storyteller,


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