BBC Radio Interview March 17th 2020 with Tammy Gooding
Set in both urban and rural Peru, The Rising of the Son follows the main character Jonno, aged 17, as he his father James, a successful and hardworking surgeon, go on an independent expedition into the mountains together to climb Mount Casharaqu. Along the way it is an opportunity for James to retrace his own past having had had some powerful and formative experiences in Peru when he was a young man. While for Jonno there is exposure to new ways of living and thinking that brings him to question the accepted truths of his own identity and upbringing, not to mention dealing with his unexpected but blossoming relationship with Magdalena, the captivating daughter of the James’ old friend Rodrigo. Whilst out in the mountains there is a potentially lethal accident and Jonno is then forced to leave his father and go find help in this alien, dangerous and unknown land. In order to survive both men are left with no choice but confront hard truths about themselves that force them to reconsider how they want to live, should both of them make it back alive.
This coming of age book attempts to deal with themes of the father-son dynamic, what it means to be a man, life in a developing country, women’s rights, being an outsider, the problematic way in how we are perceived by others, what is personal truth and what does it ultimately mean to be successful.
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Jonno stopped to catch his breath. The tears in his eyes and heavy gasping meant that he couldn’t run as he wanted. There was none of the smoothness of action, no co-ordinated breathing or slick movements as was normally possible. Mind on fire and lungs burning, he wanted to rest. He knew he had to keep moving but for some reason he couldn’t run. His chest felt tight, like someone was sitting on it. No matter how hard he gulped down the air, he couldn’t take enough in.
Looking up, he saw nothing that reminded him of the human world; simply a wide-open space with a brightening, uninterrupted sky. The landscape seemed so still and unhurried, untouched by concrete and building. It just was. The ragged horizon of white peaks that stood behind him seemed like a menacing set of rocky gummed teeth.
He thought of a recent shark documentary he had seen with his family. He had been struck by the dead eyes and rows and rows of deadly white triangles that made these beasts so fearsome. There was an intensity of purpose about them, they were perfectly evolved to hunt and kill prey.
The mountains looked back at him impassively. He couldn’t tell whether they too had the same dead eyes, the same hunger. Somewhere back there was his father, broken and in pain. He thought of injured seals and how they had no chance once the predator had locked on. He had to keep moving.
The light of the day was beginning to strengthen. He had left the camp later than he had wanted to. Dad had stayed asleep, finally calm despite the pain. Normally things would run like clockwork on these trips, but this one had been different from the start. Fragments of the day before attacked his mind as he ran. The little moments that, in hindsight, now pointed towards why he was running.
Nothing had been easy yesterday. Everything was a struggle, as though some sort of invisible force had asked them not to continue. But they had ignored it, this deeper intuition. Wading against a relentless, sticky tide of deep snow, poor weather and fatiguing bodies. These extra challenges wove themselves into a heroic narrative for the day; details of an epic expedition for father and son to recount when back in the safety of civilised life. The harder things became, the better the story.
Jonno continued moving, following the subtle and dusty path between enormous boulders. The thin air meant he couldn’t just go hell for leather, he had to be smart with his movements. If he hurt himself as well then that would surely be it, they would both be lost.
He thought of what awaited him back home; Macie, his beautiful but annoying little sister who he loved. He hadn’t yet found a way of telling her. Mum, and her endless public support and generous nature. He had occasionally heard her arguing with Dad about whether this trip was safe. He had his final year of school coming up. This trip was meant to be a last hurrah before knuckling down for important exams.
Jonno could feel the tacit enormity of what was happening knocking on his young mind. Responsibility and its consequences were becoming real rather than just boring things that adults endlessly droned on about. He had to find help and had to find it quick.
His father was back there and he was hurt. Badly. It was early in the day yet the sun would be getting viciously strong soon. He was in a strange, foreign country whose language he didn’t speak. He didn’t know exactly where he was, and he didn’t know exactly where he was going. He just knew that it was now up to him.
Jonno stumbled on a loose stone and went sprawling, just saving a potential concussion by throwing his hands out in front of him. Tears came to his eyes as his brain connected the image of grazed skin with burning pain. This was suddenly all very real.