In John Vorhaus’ 2012 novel, Lucy In The Sky, we meet Gene Steen who grows up during the 60’s in a small Midwestern Milwaukee town, in a place where the counter-culture and hippies are relatively scarce. One hot summer’s eve, one positively lands right at his feet.
Enters Gene’s long lost cousin, Lucy, a liberating mindful intellectual who takes Gene’s square brain and fills it with philosophical talks, tales of the Buddha, and the “isness of it all.” Gene’s cousin makes him think, I mean really think. Lucy explains to him that being a hippie goes beyond peace signs and love beads. It’s about the choices that you make that goes on to define you.
Lucy finds herself becoming slowly immersed inside the Steen’s household. Soon Lucy is selling wares inside Uncle Carl’s hardware store she refurbished from scouting out Goodwill and other thrift shops and making them into works of art that she hopes others will buy. In a way, this becomes Lucy’s theme: “we’re young and in art; we get to make mistakes and call them achievements.” This does come back to bite Lucy in the end.
Gene thinks Lucy has a way of alchemically turning everything she touches into gold. He could find this transformation within himself especially. Gene discovers himself slowly opening up to Lucy and a world he never thought he would be a part of.
But Lucy isn’t who she appears to be. Her real name is Carmen and she is not in fact related to Gene. Gene forces a confession out of her and agrees to help her extricate herself from the “’rents’” in order to meet up with Jude, a boy she helped torch his file in order to extract himself from the draft. The two had wound up burning down a federal building along with a janitor who had drunkenly dozed off within the premises of the facility. Presently, the law was after them.
Now Gene and Carmen, too, were both on the run. While mapping out their course to Canada, Gene finds himself thinking strategy. He finds himself going over all the tools – everything that Carmen has taught him. One thing stands out. You always got to reinvent yourself. And that means never standing still. In fact, being stationary gives them a fat chance of surviving out there in the big ole woods. This is great advice for Gene and Carmen, who find themselves on the lam with a psycho ex-cop after them.
And with all that running around, someone was bound to get hurt.
And Gene, who wears his heart on his sleeve, knows that it was bound to be him. It was only a matter of time before things caught up to him.
For the majority of the novel, the passages came across as a bit stream of consciousness. This might be due to the drugs, but Gene isn’t high until mostly the latter part of the book. It kind of detracted from the writing the way the story was for the most part written in fragments.
But overall, this was a riveting coming-of-age story, for both the young and old alike. Lucy In The Sky is bursting with brand new discoveries and deep insights. For those looking for a quick easy read, the short chapters are easy to digest and to the point.
With deep philosophical talks from everything from the Buddha to existentialism and God, Lucy In The Sky is rooted with wisdom and a clarity that is much sought after. A must read.