MAHATMA GANDHI IN A CADILLAC by Gerald Rosen

MAHATMA GANDHI IN A CADILLAC

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Jewish boy falls for a Catholic girl in a plodding, beat generation feel-good novel, fifth from the author of Blues for a Dying Nation (1972), etc. It's 1961, and the nation is searching for an identity. Danny Schwartz, hero of Rosen's Growing Up Bronx (1984) and now in the Wharton Business School, is offered a summer job working for an aerospace company in Seattle. While Danny's used his academic chutzpa to work his way out of the Bronx, his beatnik friends all kid him about being both a hipster and a Wharton go-getter, giving him the moniker of ""Mahatma Gandhi in a Cadillac."" In Seattle, he meets equally troubled Leslie, a quizzical Catholic of German descent who's just been tossed from a nunnery for reading Sartre and Bertrand Russell. She still clings to her Catholicism and loves her strict Idaho parents but is determined to obtain her own education, in and out of college. The star-crossed lovers clash over ideology and spirituality, drink a lot, and hang out in trendy jazz clubs with lots of other cool people. There's doubtless still room for a socially exploratory novel from this now long-ago time, but Rosen's own try seems mainly borrowed, standard, and tired. Be-bop tunes and au courant tomes are waved about on nearly every page, but instead of helping create a sense of time and place, they only increase the wistful haze of nostalgia that hangs over the book like a pall, while the painfully familiar characters engage in stilted dialogue with many a ""Wow!"", and gee-whiz philosophizing (""I mean, I'd love to understand things. Or to understand myself. That's what I never learned in school"") offers no help at all. As for the plot, its resolution is never in doubt. An almost unbrokenly tedious history lesson.

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 1995
Page count: 275pp
Publisher: North Atlantic