What happens in your life during your youngest, most formative years will likely stay with you the rest of your life. This is the challenge Artie Royal continues to face into his middle age years in our novella, THE BLUE BICYCLE.
He’s a good kid, despite having lost all those people who matter to him, and despite his generosity and love of family, his later years are never what they could have been.
The following Synopsis and Discussion Guide for THE BLUE BICYCLE will give potential readers insight into Artie’s losses, his hope for a better life represented by that old hand-me-down bike.
The Blue Bicycle – A Synopsis
Eight-year-old Artie Royal is excited—absentee father Casey is to visit and play catch with him. But Casey has committed a robbery and doesn’t show. Casey does return, he and ex-wife Marie involved in a custody struggle over Artie, a conflict Artie can only rise above through bike rides. But then Marie tells Artie she must leave him in great-grandfather Merle Jongleur’s keeping.
At seventeen, Artie, or A.J., grudgingly carries out a promise to Marie to care for a now-mentally incapacitated Merle. A.J. is ashamed of Merle, his derangement and poverty, and rich girlfriend Sandy is now A.J.’s only emotional refuge. Seeking to escape Merle, A.J. enlists in the Navy, and he hopes to marry Sandy before he departs. After much procrastinating, he proposes—but Sandy turns him down. The next morning, A.J. smells smoke—Merle has set fire to his garage. The old man tries to save the blue bike for A.J., who in turn tries to rescue the old man. Both are hospitalized, and as Merle lies dying, he makes a last, odd demand of A.J.: Go to Nova Scotia.
During Art’s Navy years, and during a naval attack on Iraq, Merle’s voice returns to haunt Art. Following his Navy enlistment, Art marries Katie, the couple living in Art’s remodeled childhood home. Katie has her own set of issues here: a vague dissatisfaction with the marriage, increasingly aggravated by Art’s renewed friendship with Sandy—and by his restoration of the blue bike for Mortie, the child Sandy has had in Art’s absence.
Artie moves in with Sandy and Mortie, and he soon receives notice of his inclusion in a Jongleur family estate. During a visit with the Nova Scotia family, Artie forms an emotional bond with Mara, an eight year-old cousin. Family matriarch Jacqueline offers to settle the estate by deeding Artie the family’s lobster boat. On a brief ocean outing, Artie falls overboard in an effort to rescue Mara. He experiences an oddly restorative relationship with the sea during his minutes in the icy water and sheds Merle’s haunting presence. Safely back with the family, he accepts the boat, flies Mortie to Nova Scotia, and presents the blue bike to Mara.
Discussion Guide for The Blue Bicycle
• In the 1980 section, how does Artie’s mother, Marie, figure into his life? Is she a positive force or not?
• How is Merle’s music like Artie’s blue bike? • In high school, is Artie wise to be involved with Sandy? How about in the 2004 section?
• In the 2002 section, Artie has his first wife, Katie, learn a bit of verse by John Donne. How do you think this applies to Artie’s life? To Katie’s?
• Why do you think Artie took the boat in the 2004 section? What did it mean to him?
• Following Merle’s death, why couldn’t Artie get Merle’s voice out of his head?
• How is the tone of each of the book’s four sections different? • What was Artie’s attraction to the sea?
And here’s a great trailer for the book:
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