Patterson’s (Fall from Grace, 2012, etc.) second effort in a planned trilogy continues his foray into personal drama and away from geopolitical intrigue and suspense.
In this prequel to the first novel, linked by prologue and epilogue, the narrative dives into the angst and anger of one-percenters, focusing on the family Dane. Rich-girl Whitney Dane has graduated from Wheaton, and she’s at the Dane summer home on Martha’s Vineyard planning her September wedding to Peter Brooks, a from-the-right-kind-of-family Dartmouth graduate newly employed at her father’s financial firm. It’s June 1968, and so it’s good that the senior Dane has the influence to secure for Peter a National Guard spot to keep him out of Vietnam. However, at the edge of Whitney’s consciousness lingers a hazy doubt: Will she be satisfied as helpmate? Then young Benjamin Blaine, Vineyard native, returns home. Ben dropped out of Yale to work as a Bobby Kennedy gofer. Shattered by Kennedy’s assassination, Ben’s adrift and in peril of the draft. Whitney and Ben meet. Ben saves Whitney from drowning. To couch events in ’60s vernacular, Ben raises Whitney’s class consciousness. Ben then clashes with Peter and Dane senior. Loyalties are tested. Relationships fracture. Betrayals ensue. World turned upside down, Whitney reasons herself free of "the carelessness of privilege." Patterson name-drops—William Styron, Dustin Hoffmann, Richard Nixon—and mentions good things—"a snifter of Armagnac on the open-air porch—a 1923 Laberdolive from Gascony." Characters are clichéd, but Patterson's family drama thrives on the expected: Charles Dane, controlling, manipulative; Anne Dane, all tradition and pretense; Whitney’s sister Janine, a fashion model trapped in addiction after a failed love affair; rich-girl Clarice, Whitney’s lifelong friend, openness disguising an ugly secret; boy-in-a-man’s-world Peter, attentive, thoughtful.
Patterson writes a family saga of class and money, power and pretense, love and loyalty. Think The Thorn Birds or Rich Man, Poor Man among the Martha’s Vineyard moneyed set.