It’s always a pleasure to find a story that takes an oft-told storyline, in this case time travel, and gives it a unique twist. In the excellent Jungleland by Alton Bock (@AltonBock), the music of Bruce Springsteen provides the magic that gives Danny the chance to go back to a pivotal moment in his life. You don’t have to be a fan of Springsteen, by the way, to enjoy this wonderful story.
It has been quite some time since I read a novel in one day but I enjoyed Jungleland so much that I had my Kindle in hand every available moment yesterday, following Danny on his journey from 2012 to 1995. More than once I thought I knew what was going to happen only to find Mr. Bock had other ideas. Great ideas that kept me reading as I had to find out what happened to Danny on his journey.
Jungleland is appropriately subtitled A Story of Regret and Redemption. Danny is filled with regret and at a very low point in his life: his emotionally distant father has recently died and Rosie, his estranged wife who cheated, is pregnant with Danny’s child. Attending a Springsteen concert alone — Danny bought two tickets in hopes of reconciling with his wife — he meets a mysterious woman who helps Danny find the magic that gives him the chance to go back sixteen years and perhaps do something about his greatest regret:
When I was in my teens, there was a girl I nursed a serious crush on. Her name was Jessica. Something should have happened between us. I often wonder where I’d be now if it had. Maybe nothing would be different. But maybe I wouldn’t have married Rosie. That probably sounds crazy, huh?”
— Bock, Alton (2012-12-22). Jungleland (p. 16). Kindle Edition.
Who of us hasn’t, at a low point in our lives, thought back to an event or — more likely — a person and wondered ‘what if’? Reading along as Danny wakes up as an eighteen year-old in his parents’ mini-van I knew exactly where and when I’d go, given the same opportunity. With the experience and perspective of time and age, certainly we’d handle things differently, but what ripples would such change create? Would fixing one regret create others? And what if the memories we think are so clear are actually false, once again colored and distorted by age and our later experiences? What then?
As previously noted, you don’t have to be a fan of Springsteen to enjoy the story but if you are you’ll find some gems to savor along the way. If you’re not a fan, you should know regret and redemption are themes The Boss has addressed in many of his songs, and his live shows are legendary. Sending Danny back in time from a Springsteen concert is a brilliant concept. Yes, I’m a Springsteen fan but I’ve never had the chance to see him in person — one of my regrets 🙂
I first heard the song “Born To Run” on a cassette my brother made of his college radio show and I was hooked. To this day Born to Run is one of two albums I’ve owned as 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and .mp3 downloads, and “Thunder Road” is my all-time favorite song.
To sum up, I greatly enjoyed this book and recommend it without reservation. For more on Mr. Bock and his writing, visit his website.