The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren


Friendship, racism, and the pivotal moments when one is compelled to take a stand. 

Synopsis: In the small town of Hadlee, Mississippi, during the 1980s, Jason Lee Rainey struggles to find his way amongst the old, steadfast Southern attitudes about race, while his friendship with a black boy, Samson Johnson, deepens. By way of stories from others, Jason Lee learns about his larger-than-life father, who was killed in Vietnam. He longs to become that sort of man, but doesn't believe he has it in him. In The Clock Of Life he learns lessons from the past, and the realities of inequality. He flourishes with the bond of friendship; endures the pain of senseless death; finds the courage to stand up for what he believes is right; and comes to realize he is his father's son. This story explores how two unsettling chapters in American history, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, affect the fate of a family, a town, and two boyhood friends.

My two cents:

This is a beautifully told coming-of-age story about friendship, racism, and the pivotal moments when one is compelled to take a stand. I don't think my review can do justice to how blown away I was with the simplicity yet complexity of this book.

Jason Lee first meets Samson Johnson in 1974 in a classroom in Hadlee, Mississippi. Even in a seemingly innocent setting, racial tensions have already made its way into these children's minds and when a bully steps in to break up their natural attraction, Jason Lee's friendship with Samson is cemented.

Jason Lee and Samson grow up together. In fun times: they do the things that boys do -- ride their bikes, go to the river for a swim, make "fake" dollars for the pop vending machine. And in bad: their unlikely friendship makes them an easy target in a community that is racially divided until a tragedy befalls them. This childhood friendship continues to challenge Jason Lee, to take stock of himself and take a stand on racism throughout his life.

He slowly learns -- through his family, and close friends -- that he truly is a chip off the old block and he has inevitably chosen the very same path that his father took, the path that took his father's life. Gifted with his father's journal, Jason Lee is inspired to live up to and follow in father's legacy.


This is a beautifully written book, tightly crafted, with an easy flow and a believable and accessible voice. I enjoyed getting to know Jason Lee as a young boy and as he grew up, and I am proud that he continued to stand fast to his convictions. The friendship shared between the two was a winning feature of the story and I know many will be able to relate -- albeit in hopefully less trying and less traumatic circumstances.

I found the layered and sometimes heartbreaking discoveries -- of Jason Lee's family (both his father, and his quirky Uncle Mooks) and of their community -- as a wonderful way to tie together the themes of racial prejudice and the two critical times during America's history. It highlights the paradox that we continues to march on to the tune of the clock ticking ... that the world is both changing and yet people remain people at the core.

Verdict: Comparisons to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird aren't unwarranted; this is a beautifully told coming-of-age tale highlighting friendship and those pivotal moments when one is compelled to take a stand. I hope this inspires and provokes you! Highly recommended!

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I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. 



  1. It sounds like an interesting book. I just finished re-reading Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" (as part of Roof Beam Reader's read-along), and I'd be interested in reading novels that explore similar themes. Are there direct references to Lee's novels in this book?

    1. Hope you get a chance to read it! There's no reference to "To Kill a Mockingbird" but simple share a similar theme, and a few elements (such as the friendship and the community history)

  2. Will take the recommendation into consideration. Looks like it is a great story of friendship and the bounds it can test.

  3. Yet another book to add to my TBR - great review - I can't wait to read this!

  4. I have this in my To Be Reviewed stack. Sounds amazing. THANKS for your post.

    Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved August Edition. I am in the list as #36. My book entry is below.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Entry


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