Excerpt from Lowboy by John Wray, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Lowboy

by John Wray

Lowboy by John Wray
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2009, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2010, 272 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Derek Brown

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


“I made a mistake,” he said, turning back to the Sikh. “This isn’t my stop.”

The Sikh seemed happy to hear it. “I suppose, then, that you ought to take a seat.”

“I’ll tell you why they expelled me,” Lowboy said, sitting back down. “Do you want to know?”

“Here comes the policeman,” said the Sikh.

Lowboy turned his head and saw the transit guard hauling himself up the platform and glancing sideways into each car and mumbling into his collar. The doors remained open. No announcement was given. If the guard looked bored it was only because he knew about each event before it happened. Lowboy let his head rest against the window for a moment, gathering his strength, then eased his body sideways until his cheek touched the Sikh’s shoulder. The collar of the Sikh’s shirt smelled faintly of anise. Lowboy’s eyes started to water.

“Can I borrow your turban?” he whispered.

“You should go back to school,” the Sikh said through his teeth.

“I wish I could,” said Lowboy. His left hand gave a jerk. The rest of the car was looking from the transit guard to Lowboy to the Sikh. Some of them were starting to get restless.

“Do you have a family?” the Sikh said. He shifted in his seat. “Do you have anyone—”

“Give me a hug,” said Lowboy. He took the Sikh’s arm and ducked underneath it. He’d seen the trick in the movies but he had no way of knowing if it worked. The anise smell got stronger. He saw the transit guard reflected in the windows and in the doors and in every set of eyeballs on the train. He buried his face in the Sikh’s leather jacket. The Sikh sucked in a breath but that was all.

“Hello, Officer,” said the Sikh.

As soon as the guard was gone Lowboy retched and leaned forward. The Sikh pulled his arm free as matter-of-factly as a nurse and smoothed out a crease in his pantleg. “I have a grandson in Lahore, in Pakistan,” he said. “You put me in mind of that boy.”

“Was he a truant?”

The Sikh smiled and nodded. “His name is Sateesh. A bad boy like you are. When he was sixteen—”

“I’m not ready yet,” Lowboy said, tapping out a rhythm against his chest. “They never should have kicked me out of school.”

The train began rolling and the niceties of life resumed, the breathing and the coughing and the whispering and the singing out of key. The singing especially seemed strange to him after the long awful silence but he was overjoyed to hear it. He hummed to himself for a little while, grateful for the rocking of the train, then took a breath and made his face go flat. What he had to say next was solemn and imperative and meant for the Sikh’s ears alone. He had nothing else to offer, either as a gesture or a covenant or a gift: only his one small discovery. But lesser gifts than that had saved men’s lives.  

“Your religion values sacrifice above all things,” he said. He caught his breath and held it. “Sacrifice is important. Am I right?”

The Sikh didn’t answer. Lowboy had expected him to react in some way, to cry out or throw up his hands or give a laugh, but instead he kept his sallow face composed. He wasn’t looking at Lowboy anymore but at a girl across the aisle who was fussing with a pair of silver headphones. He no longer seemed wise or elegant or even clever. The longer Lowboy stared at him the more lifeless he became. It was like watching a piece of bread dry out and become inedible.

“You’re drying out,” said Lowboy. “Are you listening?”

It’s because of the heat, Lowboy thought. We’re all baking in it. The Sikh stared straight ahead like someone sitting for a portrait. He’s preparing himself, Lowboy thought. Mustering his resources. The Sikh would get out at the next station and move to another car, or transfer to a different train, or call the police, or even send a message to the school: Lowboy knew he’d do one of these things. But it was terrible that the Sikh would act in ignorance, without waiting until he’d received his gift. A worse setback could not have been imagined.

Excerpted from Lowboy by John Wray, published in March 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2009 by John Wray. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Hermit
    by Thomas Rydahl
    If you can be comfortable with Scandinavian noir played out against the sun-drenched backdrop of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Radium Girls
    The Radium Girls
    by Kate Moore
    In 1915, Austrian-born Sabin von Sochocky developed a luminescent paint that used radium to create a...
  • Book Jacket: Long Black Veil
    Long Black Veil
    by Jennifer Finney Boylan
    "This was a long time ago, before my first death, and none of us now are the people we were then. ...

Win this book!
Win News of the World

News of the World

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Essex Serpent
    by Sarah Perry

    Costa Book Award Finalist and the Waterstones (UK) Book of the Year 2016
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's S I Numbers

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.