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Thumb Flagging by author Jerome Peterson-A Book Review

Thumb Flagging by author Jerome Peterson is a coming of age story that will charm you from the opening pages. Two twenty-something, self-professed bohemian-bums take to the open road to find themselves in a criss-cross America journey.

We meet Jay Patterson. Jay was raised Catholic, is the youngest child of six, and the only son. His mother and five sisters pamper him like a baby. Jay knows this is his biggest problem-even calls himself an S.C. B. or Spoiled Catholic Brat. He battles this childish shadow; however, he is more likely to break down in tears than he is to deal with his setbacks like a grown man. Willy Jacobs is a seasoned hitchhiker. He believes he has a cure for Jay's issues-a date with the Concrete Diva. When Willy learns that Jay has a sister in Colorado, it is decided. "We're going!"

The trip to Durango, Colorado is Part One of the three part Thumb Flagging. Jay is unwilling, nervous, and afraid to even put up his thumb to stop a ride. The pair takes on a master/apprentice-type relationship. Willy imparts his roadside therapy of knowledge and experience in goofy sayings of philosophy to prop up Jay when his spirit wanes. "We will put on a hat of happiness, place a morning star in our eyes, and cornflake the rest," Jacobs says. He puts up his thumb and wiggles it in a way that looks like a flag in the wind and Jay calls it "Thumb Flagging." With each ride, they meet another in an eclectic assortment of characters. The lonely, the depressed, the drunk, the chatty, the religious, and an insane traveler armed with a huge hunting knife all add to this wondrous first journey of personal discovery for Jay. Willy teaches his student to welcome the good rides with the hassles as the way of road. The drop-in at the sister's house leads to a wild night of drinking with 'the sis' and husband Bernie.

At the beginning of Part Two, Jay's confidence is still soaring high after a successful first trek. He's ready for another Thumb Flagging tour and gets the idea to travel to Malibu to meet his idol, Bob Dylan. More chance meetings with the best and worst of the highway ensue. Willy's street-smart drifter confidence is challenged by the clairvoyant Celeste. She sees his book knowledge and philosophizing as a shield to protect his dark secrets. Willy's free-spirit energy is quiet for the first time as he ponders Celeste's words. Despite his apparent growth, Jay's shadow emerges when the knife-wielding psycho returns with girlfriend in tow to terrorize our highway heroes.

Jay's time to shine is in Part Three. Willy has moved to Maine to live with his girlfriend and young son. He invites his former pupil to visit him. Jay gathers his gear, his guitar, and his dog for his first solo expedition. No longer the student of the road, Jay is confident enough to take on his own traveling apprentice when he meets Chloe. Gypsy Chloe hides her femininity under several layers of clothing and her true self under a tough, don't look at me-don't touch me stance. Jay's experiences and new found wisdom go a long way in breaking down her walls and gaining her trust.

I had only a couple of minor problems with the book. At times, the dialogue sounded unrealistic due to Peterson's reluctance to use coarse language. Jay and Willy weren't above hard drinking and cannabis use, but wouldn't express themselves with words cruder than darn or poop. Another problem for me was the too frequent use of "ya" instead of "you." Aside from that, I believe this heart warming tale will appeal to fans of character-driven fiction, rite of passage stories, and travel fiction.

Thumb Flagging touches our primary emotions: anxiety, fear, sadness, wonder, joy, and love. I could relate to Jay and his struggle to cast off his immature tendencies. In Willy I saw a man who hid his own insecurities by coaching Jay. Peterson treats the reader to a nostalgic glimpse of 70's bohemia. His well written characters span the spectrum of humanity, with just enough tension and conflict to keep readers captivated and turning pages to the end. The scene-painting narrative will have you feeling like you're along for the ride, footloose and free with the wind in your hair, and adventure in your heart. Pack your bedroll and hit the road with this recommended read!

Eloquent Books (February 16, 2010)

ISBN-13: 978-1609112356

Reviewed by William Potter for Reader's Choice

Thumb Flagging

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