A rather plodding second effort from Schneider, founding editor of The Hungry Mind Review (now The Ruminator Review), returns to the themes and settings of his debut (Blue Bossa, 1998).
Set in 1964 in San Francisco, it chronicles the “secret love” between Jake Roseman, a middle-aged Jewish lawyer and civil-rights activist, and Nisa, a mulatto actress 20 years his junior. Two years before the action begins, Jake’s violinist wife, Inez, drove her car into a concrete embankment; Jake believes she committed suicide, though he allows his prepubescent children, Anna and Joey, now 15 and 9, to suppose her death an accident. The three Rosemans live with Jake’s father, Isaac, a cantankerous old violinist (Inez was his prize student) who harbors racist feelings and attempts to stymie Jake’s efforts on behalf of the shvartzehs by sending anonymous hate mail to his office. While Nisa and Jake cavort around the city—leading sit-ins, speaking at rallies, protesting outside the Republican convention—Peter, Nisa’s gay and Jewish best friend, embarks on a doomed relationship with Simon, the troubled son of Reverend Junius Sims, cologne-drenched leader of the city’s black community (and friend of Jake Roseman’s). After the first glow of their romance wears off, Nisa and Jake’s relationship becomes troubled: he refuses to introduce her to his family (fearing his father’s reaction), and she—as a result—finds herself disillusioned with a man who speaks publicly about equality, yet will not invite a dark-complexioned woman into his home. Jake’s problems with his father, and continued obsession with Inez (who appears to him as a ghost), contribute to their strife. As race relations in the city grow increasingly strained, the two sets of lovers struggle to work out their differences.
The milieu is perfectly captured, but the storyline relies heavily on melodrama to propel the action forward. And the often-stagey dialogue is no help. Disappointing, if often engaging.