The Year the Lights Came On

In a novel inspired by his own boyhood in Georgia, Terry Kay recreates the joys, comradeship, turbulence, and exhilaration of growing up.  He envelops us in the wonder and magic of youth.  Caught between laughter and tears, we become inextricably involved with the people of a small southern town and the time after the Second World War when the country seemed innocent. 

Route 17 divides the community of Emery into the right and wrong sides of the tracks until the REA brings electricity, the social leveler, to the houses of the underprivileged.  But this book is more than a portrait of Emery; it is a nostalgic remembrance of boyhood.  It is the story of friendship and loyalty, of rejoicing when all-important baseball games are won, of bloody battles fought on the school playground, of a tender Montague-and-Capulet schoolroom romance.  Reading Colin Wynn’s reminiscence is to relive the bittersweet years of one’s own youth. 

Colin and his brother Wesley lived with their family on the wrong side of Route 17.  It is Wesley who first appreciates the significance of the REA’s apparent interest in their neighborhood and what the coming of the electricity will mean to them all.  This is his story as well as Colin’s.  It is also the story of Freeman, their friend and hero, who knows the swamp as other boys know their own backyards and who speaks up or down to no man. 

Terry Kay’s admiration for youth shines through his evocation memoir. Although he presents it as fiction, in writing it he has drawn upon his boyhood experiences in Royston, Georgia --- a town still glorying in its fame as Ty Cobb’s birthplace.  The result is funny, moving, and as authentically American as baseball itself.