So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away is a captivating coming-of-age story about a twelve-year-old boy who lives in rural Oregon during the 1940s. It is told from the perspective of the boy when he has grown up, his mind traveling back to his youth, 32 years later.
The plot centers on a defining moment in February 1948, a day he says that marked the end of childhood. We come to learn the unusual circumstances that led up to this event. How his family moved around a lot due to being poor. Once, they lived next door to a funeral parlor and the boy, then five, became obsessed with death. When there wasn’t a funeral one day he would pray for one the next.
He was especially interested in the old man who lived in a dark shack at the edge of the pond. All the other kids were scared of him, said he ate children and had a sword covered in blood. But the boy wasn’t afraid. Instead, he became fast friends with the man with the long white beard who looked like “an ancient breathing statue of Huckleberry Finn”. By the time he was twelve, he had witnessed the deaths of several classmates who were not much older than himself.
It was only a matter of time until February 17, 1948. That was the day he should have bought a hamburger instead of a gun. Desperate to cure himself of the ill-fated decision, the boy began to “pour over books like intellectual catsup” searching for all manner of hamburger-related information.
“I searched high and low for hamburger information. I interviewed over fifty chosen-at-random victims to tell me their personal experiences eating burgers. I wanted unusual burger stories. I wanted happy burger yarns and amusing incidents concerning the burger. I wanted tales of hamburger terror.”
In the end, the boy realizes that his “quest for burger Satori” was really just a form of mental therapy to keep him from going mad.
This is a sad book. But it is also extremely funny and an excellent portrayal of adolescence in a bygone age. If you have never read anything by Richard Brautigan or are just in the mood for something well-written and emotionally moving, I highly recommend So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away.