Written by Richard Peck
Who doesn’t love a humorous, modern look at family life? For that matter, who doesn’t love a Richard Peck novel? In the best tradition of Peck, James Thurber, and Mark Twain, the reader gets to know some of the most real characters ever to come along and genuinely care what happens to them.
Archer Magill, in true little kid fashion, understands everything in literal terms, but he’s learning. He tells of the first wedding he was in, when he was six and the ring bearer. This was where he met Lynette, soon to be his best friend and his only link with intuitive thought. Naturally, the wedding was a disaster, with Lynette helping him through the mud – mud that covered his bare behind when his white shorts ripped.
There was no seat in my pants now. Only me, muddy and open to the world.
As Archer and Lynette grow, they have many more adventures – among them, a fifth-grade teacher who is five months pregnant at the beginning of the school year and is determined to let the kids experience her third trimester with her. Lynette’s mother takes over the class though she’s never taught before. When their student teacher, Ed McLeod, arrives in his National Guard uniform, the school is alarmed by his sudden appearance. So, the SWAT team is called out and it becomes a media event. As it turns out, he’s a wonderful teacher and a wonderful guy. A bullying event prompts him to come out to the school.
“Gay’s not a random word,” Mr. McLeod said. “It’s an identity.”
“Whatever,” Perry mumbled.
“It’s my identity,” Mr. McLeod said.
Silence fell. You could have heard breathing, but there wasn’t any.
Archer decides he wants to be like his dad, his grandpa, his Uncle Paul, and eventually Mr. McLeod. Archer starts to notice things, like Uncle Paul also being gay and the fact that that’s okay, if that’s what you are. He sees that Uncle Paul needs someone to love, but that it’s Uncle Paul’s decision. He accepts that his sister, Holly, is like their mother, just like he is like the men in his life.
Then Holly blew in. She was wearing her CONFORMITY KILLS T-shirt. She and Janie Clarkson always wear them on the same day.
Quirky, well-rounded characters and subtle humor appear throughout the story. Even though same sex marriage is a theme, Peck treats it with sensitivity and just a normal part of some people’s lives. In this day and age, The Best Man is well worth a read.