College friends come of age in the turbulent 1960s and ’70s when they confront their private demons in Sharp’s novel.
With her vibrant personality and strong will, Lucy Funaro (an uninhibited seductress) exemplifies the drive to succeed among the initially idealistic young adults of Sharp’s (The Duke Don’t Dance, 2012) latest. She headlines the cast in a kaleidoscopic review of 1960s politics, promiscuity, rampant drug activity and assassinations. Lucy and her constant companion, Camilla Benenati, both undergraduates, banter with grad students Shane and Connor Stephens and Connor’s roommate, Gil Gardner, at a sports bar in Princeton in the summer of 1963 and bond almost immediately, setting in motion enduring friendships. The group gradually expands to include Lucy’s older brother, Ira; Ira’s girlfriend, Ava (who marries and divorces Ira); Balinda, who marries Shane; and Sarah, married to Connor. The wide-ranging novel supports intelligent characters and a complex, lucid plot. The action continually shifts among the friends in American cities, Southeast Asia, Spain and South Africa. Ira hopes to build a career in Southeast Asia, and Shane accepts an assignment there in 1969 mainly to honor Connor, an Air Force officer whose plane crashed on a reconnaissance mission in 1967; what happened to Connor remains unknown until 1974, when a South Vietnamese acquaintance of Shane's locates what is left of the plane and its pilots. A brisk narrative pace holds the reader in thrall, most particularly in the several chapters that chronicle Lucy’s fate and the hopeless war in Vietnam. It’s clear that Sharp writes from personal knowledge of every locale, as well as of the war itself. In fact, the novel fascinates due to the writer’s skillful rendering of the era. The most intriguing device in Sharp’s prose is the one-line character sketch, an efficient, vivid use of language in a narrative otherwise so dense, it’s wise to take notes.
Animates the Vietnam era with sharply drawn characters and intricate storylines.