HELLO TO BODEGA by Chester Aaron


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Compared to the stock cast of hippies we met in Rich's Summer at High Kingdom, red-haired Gil, a troubled Vietnam vet, and the drifters who've gathered on his rundown California farm have about them a gritty, grown-up reality. Especially engaging is Gil himself, who has formed a cautious friendship with the local rancher, Guthrie, whose purist rejection of machines is breaking down along with his stamina, and whose rejection of guns is blamed for exacerbating the harassment he and his friends are subjected to. And we're confronted with the gut realities of farming early on, when Gil and Guthrie labor over a poisoned cow and her stillborn calf; the cow's illness is also the first indication that someone has taken exception to the group's lifestyle. There's plenty more trouble--the dogs killed, the new Dome house burned down, a serious beating, a kidnapping, prowlers at night--and Gil's non-resistance becomes the issue. Unfortunately Aaron is the kind of writer who can't resolve an Issue without a full-scale Confrontation and, sure enough, the night of Rancher's Association brings together a phalanx of loudmouthed empty-headed hippies from neighboring communes, toting guns and marching to the cry of ""freak power,"" and a roomful of screaming, racist ""rednecks"" who turn on their own children when several local kids dare to speak up for Gil. The instant mob psychology and sheer frequency of violence become cumulatively embarrassing. One is forced, however regretfully, to read this as a melodrama; though unlike Aaron's Better Than Laughter and An American Ghost, the heavy head trip doesn't become such a drag that you stop reading altogether.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1976
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Atheneum