CHAS­ING DES­TINY

Pre­quel novel shows 1950s com­ing of age on Florida’s Gold Coast

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY DOUG GAL­LO­GLY Doug Gal­lo­gly lives with his wife Jackie in Fort My­ers.

I’m the fastest kid in first grade,” Quen­ton Cas­sidy de­clares. He loses that race, but holds firmly to his love of run­ning, which would be­come more im­por­tant than he could have imag­ined.

Long days in school, pick-up bas­ket­ball, squirm­ing through Sun­day church—― this is young Quen­ton Cas­sidy’s life in the 1950s on Florida’s Gold Coast. Rac­ing the Rain by John L. Parker Jr. (Scrib­ner, 2015, $26) fol­lows Cas­sidy as he dreams of greatness, even though he can’t man­age to qual­ify for the school bas­ket­ball team. Parker’s new novel is a pre­quel to his pop­u­lar Once a Run­ner.

One day while fish­ing Cas­sidy meets Trap­per Nel­son, the lo­cal wild man with an al­li­ga­tor draped over his shoul­der. He’s seen Cas­sidy dive deeper than any­one in town, and sug­gests it could in­di­cate enough en­durance for dis­tance run­ning. As their friend­ship de­vel­ops, Nel­son be­gins Cas­sidy’s train­ing.

Fol­low­ing a reg­i­men set up by Nel­son’s friend Archie San Ro­mani, a na­tional cham­pion miler, Cas­sidy steadily de­vel­ops. But there are ob­sta­cles, in­clud­ing Coach Bick­er­son, who stub­bornly holds on to out­dated train­ing meth­ods, and the kid­nap­ping of a lo­cal judge and his wife, which re­sults in Trap­per Nel­son’s ar­rest. Greatness doesn’t come easy.

Rac­ing the Rain tells the story of Quen­ton Cas­sidy’s com­ing of age, and each chap­ter is a snap­shot of his life, the in­no­cence of af­ter-school bas­ket­ball quickly giv­ing way to the fierce com­pe­ti­tion of high school bas­ket­ball. Dis­tance run­ning de­mands com­mit­ment, and John L. Parker Jr.’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a com­pet­i­tive run­ner brings Cas­sidy’s story to life in a way that will keep you in­volved un­til the last page.

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