“Rush’s memoir depicts the wild, drug-filled days of his youth with such luminous prose it feels as though we’re with him, careening from one adventure to another. That this book exists is proof that Rush makes it through every situation he encounters, and he brings such generosity to those who were alongside him that it’s impossible not to care about him or his family and loved ones. The Light Years offers a perfect glimpse into the counterculture of the ’60s and ’70s, and that time came alive for me through his writing. A perfect pick for those who lived through that time and those who wish they could.”Katie Orphan, The Last Bookstore
The Light Years is a joyous and defiant coming-of-age memoir set during one of the most turbulent times in American history
Chris Rush was born into a prosperous, fiercely Roman Catholic, New Jersey family. But underneath the gleaming mid-century house, the flawless hostess mom, and the thriving businessman dad ran an unspoken tension that, amid the upheaval of the late 1960s, was destined to fracture their precarious facade.
His older sister Donna introduces him to the charismatic Valentine, who places a tab of acid on twelve-year-old Rush’s tongue, proclaiming: “This is sacrament. You are one of us now.”
After an unceremonious ejection from an experimental art school, Rush heads to Tucson to make a major drug purchase and, still barely a teenager, disappears into the nascent American counterculture. Stitching together a ragged assemblage of lowlifes, prophets, and fellow wanderers, he seeks kinship in the communes of the west. His adolescence is spent looking for knowledge, for the divine, for home. Given what Rush confronts on his travels—from ordinary heartbreak to unimaginable violence—it is a miracle he is still alive.
The Light Years is a prayer for vanished friends, an odyssey signposted with broken and extraordinary people. It transcends one boy’s story to perfectly illustrate the slow slide from the optimism of the 1960s into the darker and more sinister 1970s. This is a riveting, heart-stopping journey of discovery and reconciliation, as Rush faces his lost childhood and, finally, himself.
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