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Greyhound by Steffan Piper


by Steffan Piper

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155877,049 (4.23)2
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    Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: abandoned boy -- great voice, imagery

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The quirky cover and noting that magic era - the 1980s - in the blurb persuaded me to take a chance on Steffan Piper's novel (well, that and the bargain basement price). Overall, the story didn't disappoint, either - Sebastien's cross-country adventure with Marcus on a series of Greyhound buses is well paced and quaintly nostalgic (Hall and Oates, though?)

The only part of the novel which didn't quite work for me is ironically the greater part of any work of fiction - the narrative voice. 'Sebastien Ranes' just does not sound like an eleven year old boy, especially one with a fractured education, raised by disinterested parents. Harper Lee made Scout's first person narration work in To Kill A Mockingbird by telling a child's story through the reminiscences of a grown woman, but Piper can't even claim to be attempting that gimmick with Sebastien, who charts his journey from California to Pennsylvania using mature words and phrases that just don't gel with a child's perspective. I managed to 'read past' Sebastien's unnerving narration, but feel that the story suffered without the charming naivete of a youthful 'voice'. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Jan 4, 2015 |
I really enjoyed this book. I once took this exact route on a Greyhound so it was neat to relive some of the stations and stops along the way.
The book starts out with an 11 yr old boy being ditched by his not so great mother to ride across the country alone to live with his grandma. He has many adventures along the way and makes a good friend, Marcus. Marcus helps him with little thoughts and lessons that help him put his life into perspective. I found this book to be sweet and full of good advice for life.It takes place over a period of 3-4 days so you get pretty good descriptions of the people, places and thoughts that happen throughout the book. I look forward to any more books this author may put out ( )
  selinalynn69 | Aug 19, 2014 |
A contemporary Huck Finn with a trip on a Greyhound Bus from California to Pennsylvania taking the place of the raft ride down the Mississippi. Sebastian Raines is a 12-year-old boy whose mother dumps him on the bus to go live with his grandparents back East while she runs off to wed her latest boyfriend and get him out of her life. On the way Sebastian encounters all kinds of adventures - including crazy drivers and a would-be child molester. He's protected from these dangers by Marcus, a wise black man, who is fresh out of prison but who has lots of worldly wisdom to impact to young Sebastian Raines. Anyone who's taken a long bus ride knows how boring they can be, but it's amazing how interesting and insightful the journey with Sebastian proves to be. ( )
  johnluiz | Aug 6, 2013 |
Easily one of the best books I've read for awhile. I fell in love with so many characters, hated a few. Was totally absorbed in the storyline and wish for more. Recommended for everyone. ( )
  Elpaca | May 1, 2013 |
At eleven years going on twelve, Sebastian is put on a Greyhound bus in Stockton California, the start of a three day two thousand mile journey to his grandparents in Altoona, Pennsylvania, by his self-interested mother; she no longer has time for him now that she is about to marry - again. Sebastian is, not surprisingly, somewhat apprehensive as he embarks on his solo expedition, bewildered not just by what the next three days might have in store for him, but also as to why he is yet again being deserted by his mother. But all is not bleak, at least he feels secure in knowing that his grandparents will welcome him; and in addition to charming all the ladies en-route with his cute good looks and polite manners, Sebastian soon teams up with a the most unlikely travelling companion, the young and black Marcus, just released from an eight year jail term.

This unusual alliance will prove to be Sebastian's salvation in more ways than one on this marathon journey that crams in more action and disasters than any youngster should have to endure in his entire childhood, let alone in just three days. Marcus proves to be a wise and loyal friend, helping Sebastian with more than just the journey, but helping him understand himself and his plight, and equipping him as best he can for the future. Sebastian learns a great deal about human nature both in its darker and in its more positive forms.

Sebastian narrates the events of his epic journey, and if there is a criticism of the book it is that this is not the narration of an eleven year old boy, but that aside the story is told with a keen sense of observation and often with a little humour. It reveals humanity in all its forms, and provides a fascinating picture of what was once the Americans' preferred means of distance travelling. Sebastian comes across as a likeable and very natural boy. I found this a most enjoyable and compelling read. ( )
  presto | Apr 23, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0982555091, Paperback)

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Steffan Piper

Question: What is Greyhound about?

Steffan Piper: Greyhound is the story of an 11-year-old boy named Sebastien Ranes who is abandoned by his mother. As the book opens, we find her dropping him off in the Stockton, California Greyhound bus station to travel across the country, unaccompanied, to live with his grandmother in Altoona, Pennsylvania--over 2,500 miles away.

Most of the experiences that are in the book are events that actually have taken place in my life. I’ve been working on Greyhound, both in my head and on paper, for about 25 years. I have boxes of journals in my garage detailing many of the stories that are in the book, thoughts I had back then when I was travelling back and forth by bus, and other small details.

Writing about my experiences within the confines of 300 pages wasn’t so easy, but I felt compelled to write about those days. Those years were a very difficult time for me, and pulling a lot of those feelings forward again brought out a lot of emotions that I had buried.

Question: Is the Marcus Franklin character based on a real person?

Steffan Piper: Marcus was a real person that I met on the bus. I’ve thought quite a bit about my encounter with him and the conversations that we had into the middle of the night. When you’re young, it’s the simplest and kindest of gestures that have the most effect and create the most lasting memories. A bag of pretzels can be the equivalent of much more over the passage of time. Not having good role models growing up, I often found myself reaching outward for a guide. Those are often the most dangerous because they have a limit as to what they can give back to you. Those limits are not always visible, especially when you’re young.

Question: Why did you set the book in 1981?

Steffan Piper: I set the book in 1981 because it was a period where life was very different than it is today, and is different in more ways than can be imagined in books or through culture. Some people may not remember it that well, or may not have lived through it, but many have. The most important facet of that time was that it was the beginning of the modern world as we now know it.

The eighties was an era of "analog communication" versus what we have today, which is digital. From telephones to records, everything was analog. People were forced to make more direct links with each other; to reach out, touch and feel the world around them. There was a need to verify the space in front of them. Today’s world seems to ask us repeatedly to do the opposite and not verify our world at all.

Question: Some of the material in the book is pretty heady for an 11-year-old boy turning 12. Got anything to say about that? 

Steffan Piper: I grew up in England and I’m the product of the British educational system, so that will always have an influence on everything that I write.

When I was ten, Sherlock Holmes was my all-time hero. Maybe it was the ease in how he held himself that I found appealing. I think it was the same for Dickens's Twist as well. These were themes I very quickly recognized and latched onto at that age. Shortly after that, when I was 12, reading Carlos Castaneda's books definitely changed my life. The idea of releasing and letting go of your self-image, during a period of my life where I was supposed to be finding that out, was alluring. I gripped onto Castaneda for dear life for about four or five years. I read those books so many times, I probably scared a few counselors at school.

I think when we start thinking as adults that we need to limit material to what we believe young people are capable of, or is normal to them, we immediately have done them a disservice, because most of them would probably shame us in regards to what we know, or think we know.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:21 -0400)

When Sebastien Rane's mother can't be bothered to take care of him, she sends him to his grandmother's across the country on a Greyhound bus.

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