They say that all human beings share the same narrative arc- we live and then we die. Yet Earl Robert Key’s book reminds us that what is important is the stuff in between. Strong Boy, Weak Man is a beautiful read about a man’s rise, fall, and redemption. A masterful work indeed.

Strong Boy, Weak Man is a book written by Earl Robert Key. It is a story about a young man’s journey and his hopes of finding his own place in the world. Seen from the eyes of a young Michael “Mike” DeAngelo Nicholas, Earl Robert Key writes about one man’s struggle to rise life’s adversities.

An Unlikely Friendship

Earl Robert Key begins his story by detailing how the unlikely friendship between Dr. Melvin Gray and a young Michael DeAngelo began. Dr. Gray, a Washington psychologist and researcher visits the town of Batesville to find a success story that he can write about. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young boy named Mike who dreams of becoming a professional boxer one day-his ticket out of his own rustic town. Throughout the whole book, their friendship will prove to be one of the central elements of the novel. We also learn of the Nicholas household- Ernest and Julia, and the rest of Mike’s siblings. The Nicholas family earn their modest living by maintaining farmland. This is one of the reasons why Mike is eager to get out of Mississippi to live a different life.

A Series of Struggles

As the story progresses, Earl Robert Key takes his readers to the various endeavors by young Mike. First, we learn of Mike’s dream of becoming a prizefighter and his lack of interest in classroom education. Key then narrates Mike’s road to becoming a professional barber; from his first “client”, his dog named “Experiment” to his internship at Mr. Howell’s barber shop. Earl Robert Key writes with certain calmness as if recalling his own childhood blunders while telling his readers of Mike’s various attempts at finding his own success- boxing, shoe shining, football stint while carrying the farming responsibilities his older brother left them with.

Earl Robert Key then transitions to the coming-of-age phase and Mike’s early encounters with the ugly side of adulthood. Key highlights Mike’s adventure towards intimate relationship and the loss of his dear Victoria. This sets a series of dark moments for Michael DeAngelo. Mike finds himself battling with drug addiction affecting his job and livelihood. His depression is fueled mainly by the loss of Victoria. As if not enough, he receives word that his good old friend Dr. Melvin Gray suffered a massive heart attack and requests his presence.

One Man’s Redemption

The last three chapters of Earl Robert Key’s Strong Boy, Weak Man details Mike’s coming to terms with his own self. Here, key shifts from the depressing tone to a more pleasant narrative. He begins with the last conversation between Mike and the good Dr. Gray. As Gray lies dying, their friendship comes full circle as Gray reminds Mike of his dreams and his good nature through the pages of a manuscript that Melvin Gray wrote. The papers are based on the life of the Nicholas family. This last moment between two friends set the tone for Mike’s road to redemption and personal happiness.

Overall, Earl Robert Key writes with serenity despite the various desperate moments all throughout the book. There is an insider’s dignity in the way Strong Boy, Weak Man was written. Just like any feel-good narrative, the book is a pleasant read but none of the clichés and highfalutin paragraphs we often read.

ReadersMagnet Reviews highly recommends Strong Boy, Weak Man by Earl Robert Key.

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