“America loves to watch someone’s life disintegrate,” writes debut novelist Silver in a narrative brimming with crises and explosives.
For all Stardust Nadia knows, her mom is just another survivor of the ’60s, her dad some nameless dude out of the Woodstock generation. Stardust’s curiosity about both parents rises several notches when mother Lorraine, an elegant woman with connections to the radical left, disappears while on an alpine skiing holiday; her frozen body is recovered—or is it hers?—at just about the time graybeard ponytail types start showing up to tell Stardust about the good-old/bad-old days of countercultural yore. Stardust, bright but a touch misdirected, as any Telemachus must be, isn’t above turning a few tricks to pay the bills; neither is she shy of hooking up with some of the latter-day New Left types who haunt John Ashcroft’s dreams, and whose escapades parallel the journeys of the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army. Lorraine suspects that there’s a rogue government plot afoot to bust Patty Hearst anew, which would end her bid for a presidential pardon as Clinton prepares to leave office at the dawn of the new millennium; from her we learn that “the whole SLA thing was a government setup,” a not-implausible scenario. The plot thickens as various elements of movements old and new play cat-and-mouse with the feds, who are not very nice. The omniscient narrator of this tale, too young to have firsthand memory of the time, is full of didactic pointers on the meaning of the blissful ’60s and the ugly ’70s.
Silver’s narrative gets a little crowded and textbookish at times, but for those who remember the days of Tania and Cinque, his tale rings true.