A Hero Dreams
Devastated by his father’s sudden death, eight-year-old Ricky begins to see things—a ghostly silhouette in his bedroom window, a gruesome train accident involving four local teenagers, a terrorist attack that won’t occur for another twenty-five years. After a traumatic incident at a New England summer camp, the visions become more frequent, more vivid, and more disturbing. A mysterious voice assures him everything will be okay if he crosses the “threshold.” But just what is the threshold? And what lies beyond?
An inspiring tale of hope, faith, courage, and profound self-discovery, A Hero Dreams takes the reader on an epic journey along the furthermost frontiers of human consciousness and into a miraculous realm where anything is possible.
Author: Mark Ristau
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 21st 2017 by Beaver's Pond Press
Beautifully written and heartrending from the beginning. Imagine your younger self discovering the world through innocence, love and carefree days. A beautiful childhood so far…. until you lose one parent. A loss that catapults you into grief, uncertainty, insecurity, doubt, numbness and the ultimate threshold that defies your own future or the end of it.
No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can’t say goodbye
-Bob Blinn and Jim Moore
(A Hero Dreams, -Mark Ristau)
1974, Ricky is a sweet young boy of eight years old when he loses his dad from a sudden death due to an aortic aneurysm. As far as Ricky is concerned, his dad was the world to him. He is simply devastated. Now the oldest sibling, he becomes head of the household overnight….wether he feels qualified for it or not. He has to be strong.
Time passes by and from the outside it looks like the family is coping accordingly. But in truth it’s a struggle. Ricky wonders when it will get easier, his mother isn’t up to the task of coping and life is just tough. Ricky’s younger brother is doing a bit better, most likely due to the age difference. He is a natural in most things he does. He excels in sports and school and in general is a well-liked kid. Ricky wishes he wasn’t so burdened with grief and memories and could move on just like him.
In an attempt to offer her children some time get away and give herself some needed space, she sends the boys to summer camp in 1976. An unforgettable and adventurous summer ought to do them well.
Camp Abenaki Valley is a camp for boys, est. in 1947. It resembles one of Native Americans boasting totem poles of the natives from the Pacific Northwest although the camp is set in New England. The cabins are marked with colored doors and the community center resembles a longhouse. There is a lake on the property for recreation and a movie is shown once a week at the longhouse. A highlight for all the campers. Different programs and events are offered, such as archery, riflery, baseball, canoeing, sailing etc. The big highlight of the summer camp will be the Ultimate Race.
Going to camp seems like a prison sentence to Ricky. How is he going to survive this? He already has a hard time getting on with others. He wears his feelings on his sleeves and he knows it. The welcome by the camp administration is warm and friendly though. It eases some of the tension that Ricky feels.
The boys will be in separate cabins. Since they are checking in after half the summer, most of the other boys already know each other. Easily Ricky becomes the target of their taunts….things you do to new comers.
Kids can be so cruel. Ricky witnesses other boys getting teased and bullied. It wears on his sensitive tummy and he keeps telling himself to stay strong. But it does not take long till they find something to bully him about.
With every day that Ricky gets up, he tries to renew his hopes for a better day. When he is assigned to the swimming portion of the relay races of the Ultimate Race, he tries to tell a senior leader that he isn’t a good swimmer. Unfortunately with all the excitements for the games, his plea gets swept under the rug. Ricky has to face one of his biggest fears. He has to get into the lake and swim his portion of the relay.
When Ricky was just 4 years old, he nearly drowned in a pool. You can imagine his fear. With the added pressure of winning the race he ends up not doing well. He nearly drowns again.
Torn between the angel he envisions that gently wants to cradle him in her safety and the voice of his father to have faith, he keeps getting up. He keeps getting up over and over every day. He keeps up the hope and he wants to believe in the good.
Unfortunately, his situation at camp becomes worse. Without the measures as we have them in place today, Ricky is exposed to bullying and mistreatment of the worst kind. He is beaten up and raped by a group of the oldest boys in camp. His physical wounds and emotional trauma are too much to take. He decides to run away. A decision that brings him to a threshold like a fork in the road. Like a line he needs to cross. Like a dare of the unknown. What will Ricky do?
“Very soon you will find yourself at the end of a road,
only inches from a threshold…
a threshold into another world – a glorious world,
one of infinite possibility….”
– Mark Ristau
Ricky’s story is unfortunate. It is evil. It hurts. It is very sad. I know there are so many children that experience bullying every day and everywhere. I remember it myself.
Perhaps from the perspective of a person that has not experienced such a push, so much trauma and hurt, it seems like a strange thing to read Ricky’s thoughts throughout the novel. His thoughts, his fears, his hopes, the voices of the angel and that of his father. These transient voices that appear in this novel are really Ricky’s way of coping. It is his way of coping with the things he is exposed to. And this is truly how it is. I commend the author for such candid, truthful writing. It seems to go against the current. It isn’t an alternate reality that is describing Ricky's thoughts. Rather it is the very valid reality in this story of a young boy named Ricky.
I normally don’t read books with sensitive material like physical or mental abuse and I was not aware that this novel contained it before I began reading it. It hovers too close to my own experiences as a kid. However, many, many years down the road now, I completely understand all of Ricky’s feelings.
This novel was written with an open heart and intuitive of what it is like to be traumatized. My heart went out for Ricky right from the start. I just did not know what was to come. Ricky’s threshold at the end of the novel is one we all have to face every day or one day in the future. It is a staggering anxiety when you have been through anything resembling Ricky’s story.
The writing in this novel is beautiful. The author’s voice left me lost in childhood and present in summer camp. I wanted to read on and on. Times were different in the 70’s, and perhaps there was some nostalgia for me in that. If I would have had the time, I would have read this book in one sitting. I really, really enjoyed it.
A Hero Dreams is the first novel in the ‘Hero’s Path Series’ and I cannot wait to read how Ricky’s story continues. I am imagining he keeps on fighting against all odds and negativity. I hope he persists and gains unmeasurable strength. In reality he is already so strong and he does not know it yet. I am rooting for him. A very special boy in a very special novel.
I want to thank Mark Ristau for the signed copy of his book I received when I met him at the BookCon in NYC earlier this year. It was a pleasure to read it :)