This historical novel revisits the anxious, fearful time of the Cold War, when blacklists, political profiling, and guilt by association ruined the lives of thousands of innocent people and deeply divided the nation.
Elliott sets the story in 1953, when the Red Scare is at its peak. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed for spying for the Soviet Union, the “Hollywood 10” are sentenced to prison for refusing to name names, and Sen. Joseph McCarthy recklessly exposes people he deems subversives and communist sympathizers. Richard, the teenage son of an FBI agent living in Washington, D.C., belongs to a white family of patriotic true believers in 1950s-era American values. When a family from Czechoslovakia moves in down the street, Richard befriends a son his age named Vlad, who shares his musical tastes and passion for literature. The family’s bold, unconventional ideas about art and politics prompt Richard to question many of his preconceived notions about patriotism. When Vlad’s father’s loyalty is questioned and comes under investigation, Richard is forced to confront his beliefs about friendship and betrayal. Interspersed throughout the narrative are photos, news headlines, ads, quotes, and political cartoons from the era that offer insightful historical context to the story in a documentary style that resembles that of Deborah Wiles’ novels Countdown (2010) and Revolution (2014).
A tense, engrossing story that effectively captures the suspicion and paranoia that prevailed during American history’s darkest chapters. (Historical fiction. 11-14)