Fundraising adviser Cove recalls with humor and understanding a pivotal year in the life of his family.
The first-time author was 12 in 1978 when his family moved from Manhattan to Salem, Massachusetts. This was his eighth move, so he quickly settled into the routine of new friends, potential girlfriends, bar mitzvah preparation, the practice of storing undelivered newspapers from his paper route in his closet, and living in a dilapidated if historic house from whose sloping roof he could see the ocean and smoke whatever substances he could procure. Into this scene arrived one of his father’s old California hippie friends, Howie, and his new wife, Carly. Howie, at first planning to stay just a couple weeks, hung around for months and, at a big Thanksgiving dinner, made an impression by hauling out a new issue of Playgirl in which he was the centerfold. Howie decided that his next step up the career ladder would be to earn the title of Playgirl’s “Man of the Year,” and he enlisted Cove to be his campaign organizer in reaching out to the reluctant residents of Salem. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the marriage of the author’s parents was quietly, and then not so quietly, unraveling. Cove has a light touch and an eye for regional and temporal detail, and if some of his anecdotes appear to have been exaggerated for dramatic effect, he never comes across as self-aggrandizing. His pains and pleasures have been tempered by the decades, and the book clearly conveys both his disappointment with his parents at the time and the ways the years since have shaped his forgiveness and appreciation of them.
While references to sexual acts, male anatomy, and drug use may put off some readers, most who either recall or are curious about this free-loving period of history will find themselves satisfied by Cove’s re-creation of his journey out of boyhood.