Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Review: 'Looking Back' by Kerry Cepero

Florida author Kerry Cepero brings New York City to life in this diary like novel that just may possibly be a memoir - his chief character is writer Keith Urena who lives in Florida with his wife and travels back to NYC in present time only to scoop us back to the 1980s rich in young man memories. About all we can know about Kerry Cepero is that he is a `native New Yorker, a self described action and sci-fi geek who enjoyed the comic and sci-fi universe as a kid growing up in the eighties in Queens Village. Being a big fan of the X-Men titles, Batman, Wolverine, and the Punisher; but also a fan of books like the Lord of the Rings, and shows like Battlestar: Galactica (new & old), Buck Rogers, and Robotech, he can be regularly seen at the Ultracon of South Florida Comic Con in FT. Lauderdale.' A lot of coincidences for this not to be a memoir!

Kerry opens his novel with a cursed plane ride for Keith Urena and his wife Marcia from Florida to NYC with so many mishaps and misadventures that that trip alone provides a howl. But once in New York, he and his wife connect with old acquaintances, New York food and finally the promised visit back into Queens. Kerry prepares us well with Keith's memories shared with Marcia and then steps us back in time to the 1980s in Queens when Keith as a youngster - 23 years ago. At this point Kerry's writing becomes more poetic: `August 1980 - We moved here on a Saturday, finally arriving from the two bedroom apartment in the Bronx my parents lived in since before I was born ... around 5pm. My mom would tell me about the backyard the new house had and how we can play there every day. I was about five years old at the time and all I knew in life was that small apartment on the Grand Concourse. I didn't know what she meant. Backyard..? What was that? Truthfully, I thought she was talking about the dolly someone lent my Dad because the moment the fridge was loaded off the moving van and into the house; I took that dolly and rolled up and down the driveway with it. The house had this sanitary fragrance to it; the movers called it "the new house smell" -which was complete crap because the house was built in 1925 and there was nothing new about it except the tenants. I think the only reason why Dad brought the house was because of the drop in price once the principal owner died and the family who inherited the house just wanted to get rid of it.' Then back and forth from the present to the past, allowing some reality to settled in for Marcia's fascination with Keith's childhood.

Or as the author summarizes, `Keith Urena returns to his childhood home in this warm, comedic telling of what life was like growing up on a Queens Village block in the 1980's. Riding bikes with his best friends, and getting into trouble; Keith will take a journey back to the great times he had and come face to face with some difficult moments in a young boy's life...'

Great literature this is not -but it is a fine novella that has the warmth and charm that Kerry has elected to share coming of age in NYC in the 80s. It is full of charm, nostalgia and humor and pathos, and for a writer whose head is in comic con (his two other novellas are WARHEAD and MELTDOWN: AGENT OF DESTRUCTION VOLUMES 1 AND 2), this is a step in the direction of serious reality writing. He handles it well. Grady Harp, June 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.