Chris Rush was born into a prosperous, fiercely Roman Catholic, New Jersey family. But underneath the gleaming mid-century house ran an unspoken tension that, amid the upheaval of the late 1960s, was destined to fracture their precarious facade. After an unceremonious ejection from an experimental art school, Rush heads to Tuscon to make a major drug purchase and disappears into the nascent American counterculture.
This stunningly beautiful, original memoir is driven by a search for the divine ... funny and harrowing and deeply tender. As Rush recounts his adolescence, which becomes increasingly terrifying, it’s impossible not to worry about how badly things might turn out ... Although the book’s arc bends toward Rush’s eventual sobriety, this doesn’t read like a typical recovery memoir. His descriptions of his own drug use are unapologetic and even affectionate. And he never soft-pedals how difficult life becomes after he goes straight ... both a coming-of-age book and an account of an artist’s development.
Rush’s incisive humor livens up the bleak narrative, and he captures the eccentricities and quirks of the many people he encountered as a teen...Most notably, his characterization of his parents is evenhanded and sympathetic, humanizing figures that initially appear neglectful and larger than life ... The memoir speeds by in a mesmerizing blur...the narrative moves at a rapid pace, and the memoir hardly feels close to four hundred pages. The dialogue is consistently quick-witted and sharp, the descriptions evocative and surreal. Rush has a real talent for fully rendering dynamic personalities and extraordinary landscapes ... The book, while marketed as a straight forward memoir, is an expertly crafted, elevated piece of writing.The narrative feels artfully arranged and experimental in form. Rush has written an expansive life narrative, full of brilliant observations, and it’s hard to believe that this is only his first book. Signaling the debut of a talented writer, The Light Years sketches an unforgettable portrait of a turbulent time.
...happily, this busy, headlong narrative is not forced by its author; the propulsion driving it is one into which he seems pulled, drawn by whatever it was that engineered the collective crest-then-crash course of idealistic seekers and misfits between 1967 and 1976. Drugs, for one thing ... Remarkably, his beatific innocence remains intact, as does the lightheartedness of the narration. If The Light Years can seem haphazard or uncurated, scribbling hitchhiking routes back and forth across the map, what it sacrifices in reflection on Chris’s experience it makes up for in reflection of the culture ... what’s fresh and interesting about The Light Years is its account of gay survivalism ... The rare thing the book offers is a nearly documentary collection of gay and genderqueer kids, and their situations, in the early 1970s.