In this debut novel, a college student on a U.S. Army nursing scholarship joins the anti–Vietnam War movement.
It’s Sept. 15, 1969, the day after Judy Talton’s 19th birthday and the day that she decides to change her path. At Central Illinois University’s student union, she sits with the radical students for the first time. After an argument between anti-war protest leader David and the ROTC kids, Judy is approached by Vida, who says she’s been watching her hanging out on the group’s fringes. Other members of the radical group emerge, including Wil, whose birthday is also Sept. 14 (which becomes important later). The group is pushing a petition supporting anti-war political-science professor Swanson, who’s in jeopardy of losing his job. There’s also anxiety about the upcoming draft lottery, which is scheduled to happen right after Thanksgiving. Instantly, Judy is swept up in the movement and takes part in the “Moratorium” event (a national day of protest against the war) and then a march in Washington, D.C. But through it all, Judy tries to keep a low profile, as protesting the war could result in her having to pay the Army back for her scholarship; she also goes to great pains to keep her Army connection a secret from her new friends. The conflict intensifies throughout the novel, particularly when Judy decides to go to Washington, which makes her AWOL: a criminal offense. Throughout, the author does a fine job of complicating and building Judy’s dilemma. The divide between Judy’s old life and her new one continues to cause her angst, which ramps up the tension regarding her various choices. What isn’t made clear, however, is why Judy initially decides to risk her scholarship, which she very much needs, in order to join the radical group. This is a symptom of a larger issue, which is the fact that Judy’s motivations are unclear, even to Judy—which, in turn, may make it difficult for readers to understand her. Still, she makes a sacrifice in a finale that’s well-crafted, surprising, and inevitable.
An often fresh take on the collegiate anti-war movement in small-town America.