A group of high-school friends navigates the turbulent ’60s and the decades that follow in this debut novel of small-town America.
The story’s six main characters represent classic types: the high school sweethearts who don’t go to college and marry young, the beatnik who believes that music can save the world, the boy who goes into the military willing to die for his country, the young man in love and the unattainable girl he worships. They all reunite each year for breakfast on Thanksgiving Day—meetings that consist of far more drinking than eating—and share their experiences. Through conversation they reveal their shifting ideologies, their professional aspirations, their struggles with relationships, their small victories and betrayals. They also discuss current events, from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the advent of Viagra, depicting a nation suffering the same growing pains as they are. But while the novel’s multitude of characters gives it scope, its use of a third-person omniscient narrator leaves readers a bit adrift in the sea of discussion, unable to develop strong bonds with the characters. Alex Flynn emerges early as the potential protagonist, as his relationship with Nancy, an impeccable Christian girl with missionary aspirations, is the novel’s most interesting dynamic. But readers get to know Alex and the other characters mainly through expository dialogue and never get full access to their interior lives. The novel’s strength is in its nostalgia; readers will likely feel as if they are overhearing exchanges from decades past.
A conversational novel, full of historical details, which struggles to find its narrative voice.