THE BRAVE AND THE FREE by Leslie Waller

THE BRAVE AND THE FREE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another misguided attempt to sum up the political/sexual revolutions of the Sixties in a novel; but, unlike Tauber's The Last Best Hope (1977), this is not a noble failure but a tacky one. Waller is clearly out of his depth here as he follows various Ohio young folks from their 1964 highschool graduation to tenth reunion in 1974. Valedictorian Sally is raped while working for civil rights down South, joins a street theater, and winds up a stage star. Her sometime lover Hurd inherits a huge fortune, slips into threesomes with his bisexual TV-newswoman sister, runs for office, and has an uncle who's into covert operations of all kinds in Washington. (Uncle is mysteriously killed just before announcing his conspiracy theory about the Kennedy/King assassinations--one of Waller's many cheap touches.) Drop-out Nick goes through Satanism and the Chicago, 1968 riots--his wife is beaten and blinded by cops--on his way to becoming a top rock star. Conscientious-objector Tom goes crazy when his hawkish father gets mad, kills his mother, and then commits suicide; Weatherman Jim is killed by the Feds; and Frank, the only black, loses his entire family (one by one), is crippled in Vietnam, and turns into a terrorist. Yessir, just your typical highschool class. And, with all these contrived, fragmented plots (plus much, much more), Waller never develops a single believable character; nor does any one of the period's events or issues come into clear focus. Moreover, the use of sex-and-melodrama formula plotting is always at odds with Waller's pretentiousness: heavy quotes from songs of the period, aggressively overdone lingo (""If they get hassled by the pig, what happens to our gig? Dig?""), and bland testimonials to this ""purifying decade."" So: the Sixties, pulped into the image of a trashy TV mini-series--some readers will lap it up, most will just ignore it, and those with a sense of history will be downright offended.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1979
Publisher: Delacorte