THE SMALLEST COLOR by Bill Roorbach

THE SMALLEST COLOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Roorbach (Summers with Juliet, 1992, etc.) effectively juggles a number of themes in a slyly composed whodunit that’s also a paean to burying the bones of the past.

Superficially, Coop Henry has an enviable life. A former Olympic bronze medalist, he now coaches the US ski team and seems happily married to the formidable Madeline. But Coop is haunted by the events of 1969, the year his older brother Hodge died. Compounding his grief is his inability to openly mourn; Coop has spent the last 30 years claiming that Hodge is still alive and living underground as a fugitive. His deception, and the reasons for it, may soon be uncovered, as Coop’s parents have hired wily p.i. Tad Czako in a last-ditch effort to find their favorite son. With the imminent revelation of his secret, memories encroach upon the present to leave Coop contemplating a life built on his brother’s death. He begins an affair with Roddy, a skier who’s already engaged, he assaults clerks at a hardware store and temporarily lands in a mental-health facility, and he very may well lose his coaching position. As his life crumbles, he’s transported back to that fateful summer when he searched for his brother, already involved in terrorist activities. Here Roorbach builds an engaging portrait of the ’60s, its free-love and drug experiments, the naïve innocence of some and the restless violence of others. Coop’s on-the-road adventure leads him to Tricia, a Montana cowgirl and brilliant poet, and soon the two are in Chicago, where they find Hodge and his co-conspirators. The bombing of a Boeing plant in Seattle lands the teenage revolutionaries in a mountain retreat awaiting capture. Roorbach’s quasi-mystery (what really happened to Hodge?) works well as a device in explicating Coop’s current life choices, creating a fast-paced portrait of the fate of ’60s radicalism.

Well-drawn characters and a topical theme make this a lively read.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 2001
ISBN: 1-58243-152-3
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2001




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