At the beginning of Going Bovine,Cameron Smith describes himself as “a drifter—right downstream and over the falls with the rest of the driftwood.” Although he is intelligent, he does poorly in school. Although he is funny and insightful about other people, he lacks close friends and fails to get along well with his family. His goal in life is to make as little effort as possible at living.
When Cameron learns that he is dying of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, he has to re-evaluate his life and goals. Soon he finds himself on an epic road trip to cure his illness and save the world. During the trip, he takes risks, he forms real friendships, he chooses struggle over constant happiness, he learns to value the people and experiences he has long taken for granted, and he grapples with the concept of destiny. Although the trip is most likely a hallucination brought on by his illness, it helps him grow as a person. By the end of the story, he has learned to value and embrace challenge as an essential part of life.
Paul Ignacio “Gonzo” Gonzales is a health-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf who accompanies Cameron on his journey. At first he is only a reluctant companion, but as the journey progresses he becomes a true, loyal friend to Cameron. The trip forces Gonzo to face his fears and admit his homosexuality.
Balder is a Norse god in the form of a yard gnome who accompanies Cameron through much of his journey. Balder is gruff and fearless, and he harbors a grudge against people who take gnomes to strange places and snap their photographs. His ultimate goal is to go to the ocean and be reunited with his ship, Ringhorn.
Dulcie is an angel Cameron has freed from imprisonment in a snow globe. She pressures Cameron to set out on his journey, visits him to help along the way, and often helps him make sense of his discoveries. She has the ability to see people’s fates as they stand at any given moment, but she explains that these fates can change along with their choices. She is Cameron’s ideal girl, and he falls in love with her before the end of the story.
Characters at Cameron’s School
According to Cameron, Stoner Kevin, Stoner Kyle, and Part-time Stoner Rachel are his “sort of friends” at the beginning of the novel. He often finds them smoking pot in the men’s bathrooms, and he appreciates them because they demand nothing from him.
Chet King is a former football player who can no longer participate in sports because he cracked two of his vertebrae. He believes that is injury was God’s will, and he speaks before Kiwanis club meetings and church groups about God. His faith in predetermination provides a contrast to the author’s development of a complicated picture of shifting destinies.
Staci Johnson is a beautiful and popular but empty-headed girl at Cameron’s school. She is cruel to him when he is an outcast, but she attempts to be kind when she finds out he is dying. Near the end of the novel, he runs into her at the Party House and loses his virginity to her. In the process, he realizes that she is a truly superficial person....
(The entire section is 1340 words.)