Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Ethan is about to start off on an adventure he has always dreamsed about, he is going to be spending his sophomore year in college abroad in the university town of Freiburg, Germany. Leaving behind his first boyfriend at the University of Minnesota and his mom, Ethan is ready to experience new things, meet new friends and even hopefully find new love. All he has to do is submerse himelf in the German language, figure out the Strassenbahn network of trams, his mode of transportation other than walking. and uncover why one of his new roommates hates him so. All while carrying a heavy course load and feeling a little isolated to boot.
Of all of Ethan’s roommates, it’s only Daniel who seems to take an instant dislike to Ethan. True, Ethan is nineteen, much younger than any of the others. But there seems to be something more behind it, some problem that not even Florian and Paula, his other floormates, can make sense of. However, there is something so intriguing about Daniel that not even Daniel’s cold demeanor can stop Ethan from falling in love with his chilly roommate. When Ethan has an accident, Daniel’s behavior and attitude towards him changes drastically, enough for Ethan to hope that his crush might be returned.
Daniel has many secrets, including the ones that made him reject Ethan to begin with. He is also very straight. When all his secrets are revealed, will their friendship still be there in the aftermath or will something more be possible between them.
Coming of age stories are a common rite of passage for many writers. It is a needful retelling of that first momentous journey from childhood into the footprints of an adult and maturity. For some authors remembering that benchmark of their lives translates into a remarkable story that stirs up our own memories of youth and time of transition. Those tales bring forth a wellspring of emotions that speak to the heart of who we are and how we become that person we are today. The Race for Second by Chase Potter is one such memorable story.
In addition to conjuring up memories of our own youth,The Race for Second shines the light onto one young man’s first voyage of discovery and growth. From Ethan’s story we glean the lessons he learned and the price paid for that experience from this rite of passage tale. And those shared elements that we all go through at that stage serves to connect us all together. In Ethan, Chase Potter gives us a 19 year old young man on the cusp of change, a change he not only welcomes but has created for himself by choosing to spend his sophomore year abroad in Germany. Ethan is a marvelous character and his journey of one year in Germany will pull you in from the first moment you meet him on board a plane bound for Frankfurt and a year he will never forget.
Ethan is a product of a single parent home. His father left the family when he was three and his mother has given her all to support them both in a loving but financially straightened environment. Ethan was also lucky in other ways including a maternal love and acceptance that never changed when Ethan came out. Even in childhood Ethan’s dreams and ambitions have always extended past the trailor park where they live into a much larger, expansive future for himself. Potter’s descriptions of Ethan’s childhood and mother are interspersed throughout Ethan’s story, giving the reader glimpses of his life in Minnesota and clues to his emotional makeup.
One element of Ethan’s story is the automobile, a specific type of one that is powerful, expensive and beautifully designed. With the ever present Autobahn and its fast flowing river of cars interrupting Ethan’s thoughts and trips out from the university, cars play an important role in Ethan’s life that started in childhood. Ethan uses cars as a metaphor for the vehicle which will carry him away from his mundane, restricted life in the trailer park towards some unknown powerful future. Here is an excerpt to introduce you to Ethan and his point of view:
Cars were another reason that it would have been great to have a dad— one that stuck around until middle school at least. I love them. In high school, before making dinner so Mom could eat when she got home from work, I’d go out to the road and watch the cars. The speed limit was only forty-five, and I’d sit where I could see every vehicle that passed. It let me see the make and model names inscribed on the back. We didn’t have a computer then, so it was how I learned what was out there.
It was rare that anything cool came along. No one with money had any reason to go near Twin Meadows trailer park. Except one time, the last week of class before the end of tenth grade. It was almost time to go inside and start the spaghetti and meatballs I was planning. But there were still a few more minutes. Maybe a Corvette or Mustang would zoom past, and the wait would be worth it. Wind blasting last year’s dead grass as it rolled up to the road, I lay back, crossing my legs at the ankles and staring up into the clouds. I was kidding myself. That night was just like all the others in that damn place. I stood up to head inside, and then I heard it. A deep purr with a rich timbre, coming up fast.
My head snapped to the point in the road where it would emerge from behind the trees. In a rush of gray and chrome, the enormous sedan erupted around the corner. Its flat nose and massive grille spoke of earlier times, but the flowing lines proclaimed it to be modern. It was easily the largest car I’d ever seen, both in length and girth. The rumble of its engine struck a reserved note that belied its current speed far over the limit. Then it was gone. I didn’t have any idea what the heck it was at the time, other than a really expensive car. In retrospect, it was probably a Rolls Royce or a Bentley. All I knew is that it was beautiful, every part of it. Even the sound felt like the engine was singing to my soul. Okay, sometimes I’m full of shit, but it really was awesome.
And there’s Ethan, that wonderful, singular American voice that narrates The Race for Second. It’s through his curious, adventurous eyes that we explore the town of Frieburg and its history. Or head out to Marseilles and beyond. As Ethan wanders and explores, so does the reader. Over the cobblestones and through the old parts of town, into shoppes and market places. Potter’s descriptions bring us immediately into the location and settings as well as Ethan’s thoughts about it all. And never does it come across as a travelogue instead of the personal journey of one young man. Through Ethan we get both an American viewpoint as well as that of someone on the brink of self discovery and adulthood. Trust me you are going to fall in love with this character and his year in Germany.
Along with fine tuning his German and coping with a heavy curriculum, Ethan must adjust to the German lifestyle and the situation of being alone and uncertain. The story abounds with German phrases and information about the language. We learn as Ethan does. It’s a useful concept that makes Ethan’s problems accessible and easy to relate to. But at the center is Ethan’s perception of and relationship with his roommate Daniel. Daniel is a bit of an enigma through most of the first half of the story. His rationale for his dislike of Ethan, his change in outlook and finally his friendship occupy Ethan’s thoughts and emotions throughout the story. There’s more than one mystery here, both of which are buried in the past. And its into the past Ethan must first look for answers before he can grow and accept certain things for himself.
The Race for Second abounds with lively, multidimensional characters as does the locations and settings they find themselves in. Potter brings Freiburg and the university alive for the reader. We are immersed in the campus life and the ancient town that surrounds the university as Potter weaves its history and its people into the tapestry of life abroad he has created for Ethan and the reader. It is a journey fraught with disappointments and emotional outbursts, filled with moments of incredible joy and personal discoveries. The reader will be able to laugh along with those that Ethan has gathered together for his recreation of an American Thanksgiving in his dorm and cry along with Ethan with the exposure of the harsh and painful truths that life offers up to go along with the joys.
Is this a romance? Not really, but love does play into it in many forms. And although it might not work out the way you had thought it would or had hoped for, it is still enough to make you happy and able to go forward with Ethan and his travels into adulthood. Chase Potter had a wonderful story to tell and in The Race for Second he has absolutely achieved that goal.
I loved The Race for Second and Ethan. It was a remarkable journey that Potter sends Ethan and the reader on and it was one I was sorry to see end. But Chase Potter has said that he intends to continue Ethan’s story. The story here is somewhat open ended so I welcome the information that a sequel will be in the works. I can’t wait to see what happens to Ethan after Germany as he is a hard character to let go.
I have been luck to find two new authors through their coming of age stories. Both tales of young men at the start of something remarkable in their lives and each so uniquely different in character and story. For Chase Potter, The Race for Second is his first book and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s beautifully told, full of textures,vivid descriptions and of course, characters that pour from the page and into your heart. Grab it up today and start y0ur journey with Ethan as he discovers the wonders and pitfalls of life abroad in Germany and the personal growth that important life experiences bring.
The Race for Second by Chase Potter
Paperback, 250 pages
Published May 1st 2014 by Chase Potter Books
ISBN 0615982603 (ISBN13: 9780615982601)
other editions (1)
The Race for Second Copyright © 2014 Chase Potter
Buy Link: Amazon