An artist investigating her parents’ disappearance finds herself immersed in the history of 1970s counterculture.
Trout Brooke, an orphan, receives a blindsiding call from police reporting the discovery of her hippie-parents’ remains in a Volkswagen bus on the grounds of an abandoned commune in the Oregon wilderness. Bewildered, Brooke launches her own inquiry into their deaths and lives—they disappeared from her life 30 years ago. Some preliminary snooping on Satori Ranch reveals the commune seemingly suspended in time after its abandonment, which leads to a larger, spookier mystery: What caused the commune's drastic demise? The winding course from this question to its twisted answer is long and not without its narrative bumps. Some crucial scenes creep forward with well-orchestrated suspense, while others only skim in a light after-the-fact summary. Still others swell with such detail that their imagery becomes difficult to decipher. Certain fanciful plot developments—like a private jet provided by a wealthy, aging relative of the commune’s founder; or Brooke’s steamy hotel encounter with a long-lost childhood friend, who's also a child of hippies—disrupt the flow of an otherwise emotionally engaging story. Distractions aside, the entertaining mystery focuses a colorfully tinted lens on the history of counterculture communes. Each chapter includes photocopies of pages from The Last Whole Earth Catalog, a righteous hippie zine from the ’60s and ’70s that took inventory of counterculture at the time. In these pages, it’s an eerie memento mori reminding Brooke of her parents’ fleeting culture and mortality, and her own.
Those longing for the groovier days will find equal parts suspense and whimsy in this nostalgia piece.