Review of the novel City Limits by Jim Peron
The novel opens by describing the situations of two recent High School graduates, Brian and Tony, in the context of their small rural Kansas town with the usual problems associated with small Kansas towns. Not to mention Brian's mother, Eunice, who is kindhearted but often misguided in how she interacts with Brian and Tony. However this novel is not an angst filled coming of age story set in Kansas, certainly the humor in the first chapter overshadows the angst. There is even humor in Brian and Tony deciding to relocate to San Francisco and their trip. The novel does not turn into a travelogue or road story although that might have been interesting. Nor is it a romantic comedy although during the novel there is both romance and comedy. The novel is about characters and life as they create and experience it.
It is in the San Francisco area that the other characters are introduced. And they are quite a bunch of characters. Stella encounters Brian and Tony soon after they arrive in San Francisco and it is with this encounter that the narrative jumps up a notch. From arranging for Brian and Tony to rent an apartment in the Castro to assisting them in acquiring suits for a job interview, Stella fulfills the role of older sister, mentor and also guide around San Francisco. The limo driver Anthony, his boss Mr. Santori and the daughter Elizabeth Santori soon follow in the narrative. Brian, Tony, Stella, and others try to avoid getting tangled up in their own minor machinations while working to unmask a major deception and scam against the ill, desperate and unsuspecting.
This novel references many actual events with a fictional but loving eye. And locations are described with just a bit of literary license however the locations are generally easily recognizable to those familiar with the area which adds to the texture of the narrative. I have lived in the Silicon Valley area for many decades and thus am familiar with the Bay Area and certainly San Francisco where I meet the author many years ago. One might easily image some of the events happening today such as Stella confronting the street evangelist. Or taking a ferry to Sausalito to interview for a job and being driven back in a limo.
There is much in the novel about being human; what it means to be part of a social circle, a family not of relatives but of chosen persons. And importantly the development of the individual; not the infantile pseudo-individualism one typically associates with a toddler; instead the honest, benevolent, rational, and mature individual which one ideally develops into as they become an adult. The novel covers the time span of only about a year yet one sees Brian and Tony develop and grow in their new home and with Stella and all of the others. It is in this sense that if I had to use only one phrase to characterize this novel I would call it life affirming.