This ambitious yarn follows twelve-year-old John Greber who, along with his mother Ellie, is the object of abuse at the hands of John’s father whom he names “The Beast.”
One day, “The Beast” abandons John and his mother while at the same time snatching away John’s six-year-old sister Marny. John vows to seek revenge, confront his repulsive father, and rescue his sister Marny. As we discover, all of this transpires during a time where John and his mother will be indirectly involved in a Civil War that has far reaching repercussions that may lead to the destruction of the world. Tagging along with John and his mother, Allen cleverly uses his mind-boggling world as a vehicle in understanding what life is all about and the human condition. This is particularly in evidence as we witness John’s challenge of making the transition from childhood to adulthood as he self-examines the big questions in life as well as the nature of good and evil, the meaning of life and the quest to understand himself.
After reading a detailed synopsis of the book, I wondered about the cover art, which I find simple and fascinating. I asked Jeffrey to discuss the significance of the cover art to his story.
Jeffrey's turn: When Wandering Sage Publishing and I were developing the ideas for the cover, I must have done ten covers myself. They all had to do with the story. The publisher rejected them all, saying they were too busy. He came up with the current cover. I liked it immediately because it was a powerful looking cover. To me it does not key in on the story, but instead, speaks more to the philosophy of the story.
The main character, John Greber, is severely beaten by his abusive father. The reader will get the impression that John has either died or gone into an unconscious dream state.
As one moves further into the story, John’s journey into the Land becomes more intense. He loses his urge to question what is happening to him. He stops referring to the events that led to his beating and the abduction of his sister. John moves into the present. There is never any mention of time from that point on. There is no passing of the days. The entire story takes place without any reference to universal cycles, such as weather, or day and night. There is no direction to the light of the Land. It seems to come from everywhere. There are no human needs to satisfy such as hunger or sleep. John moves into a whole new reality, one that is consumed by his desire to find his kidnapped sister and kill his father, who he names "The Beast", and who is growing larger and more grotesque as the story matures.
The cover is a spotlight on the mountain that represents John’s difficult journey, but also an indication that he is not alone. He is accompanied by the energy of the human spirit, whether one calls that energy God or not does not matter. It is John’s journey. Gone Away imparts to the reader one boy’s journey, but the novel suggests that someday we will all take our own journey. One that will be unique to us, guided by how we lived our lives and how we perceived we lived our lives, as opposed to being judged by a supreme being for the way we lived.
In the end, John reaches the proverbial top of the mountain and finds his peace. He has, thus, reconciled the deep questions that had plagued him in life, and will embark on a whole new life, a whole new reality. One with a great purpose.
Jeffrey B. Allen studied art at Bloomsburg University for two years before attending Boston University where he majored in history and minored in set design and fine arts. A one year hiatus, in the form a hitchhiking trip, served only to heighten his restless and inquisitive nature. Allen attributes those early journeys to laying the foundations for his views about politics and religion and the relationship they share with historical perspective.
Later, he traveled through Europe and Mexico where his compulsive curiosity with historical myth and legend intensified, especially for the interpretations that obscure the truths underlying foreign and American cultures. Allen was fascinated by the way events are twisted and misconstrued within historical writings because of religious beliefs or political power brokering. Those years of learning, searching, and questioning have contributed greatly to the philosophical depth of his writing. Allen continues to this day to study, research, and philosophize about the positive and negative effects on our culture due to an over abundance of historical and religious misconceptions.
Jeffrey Allen graduated from Millersville State University in architectural design and taught for two years while also working toward his Masters degree at Temple University in Philadelphia. After a brief teaching career, he created his own architectural woodworking firm in 1980.
By 1982, Allen was owner and president of Artistic Furnishings Incorporated, a design house and manufacturer of custom architectural millwork. The company employed designers, artisans and support staff. His work can be seen throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey in private residences and businesses. Today, Allen resides in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he still works in the field of interior space planning, although most of his time is devoted to writing.