A Jersey Shore romance kindled in the swinging 1970s still smolders when old lovers come together in 2008.
Ronny Hopkins has long pined after his neighbor Katie Kline, the two young Belmar, New Jersey, natives often sharing time together over a little weed and “The White Album.” But Katie is a thoughtful girl, still affected by Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in ’68, moved to explore the issues of the tumultuous era she is growing up in, and charmed by the adult allure of New York but also Ronny’s father. Although their adulterous affair is quickly recognized as a mistake, their liaison leaves behind a handful of nude Polaroids of Katie, which Ronny finds hidden away with his father’s dirty magazines. Yet when Ronny confronts her, the two make love. But a relationship seems untenable, as Katie stays busy paying her dues writing obits for the Village Voice, graduating to chasing stories for the newspaper, while Ronny relaxes on the Jersey Shore, working as a lifeguard and spending his nights at local bars. Worse, Katie struggles with panic attacks, and Ronny’s resentment over her past and present experiences sometimes culminates in violent or jealous outbursts. Distance, family deaths, and other love interests soon pull them apart, but when they reunite for a day in 2008, the remnants of their time together—not naked photographs but his unanswered love letters—promise to remind them of what they once were. Bennett (Summer Mirrors, 2015, etc.) returns to Belmar to tell a warts-and-all love story spanning decades, deftly breaking down the small moments that form long, awkward relationships. The first half of the novel is presented in fast-paced snippets of character and conversation. The dialogue is quick and relies heavily on the two protagonists’ understanding of each other, with their interactions full of in-jokes, slang, and references to their time together. There are recognizable hallmarks to differentiate the ’70s from the modern day, with numerous nods to the music, drug culture, and celebrities, and in the 2000s, that period’s technology. The book’s second half, taking place over a shorter amount of time, slows the pace considerably but keeps the engrossing tale’s most important aspect alive, its delicate switching between Ronny’s and Katie’s points of view.
A decades-old, honest love story that never feels like merely a time capsule.