In his second novel, Spetta (High Tide Low Moon Running, 2002) offers a charming, resonant coming-of-age adventure.
The author smartly builds his tale around the camaraderie of three close friends in 1960s Long Island. At the heart of the archetypal group is Chris, seemingly the most normal of the threesome, which also includes troubled loner Teddy and introverted, intelligent Charlie. As told by Chris in a series of flashbacks from the modern day, these three misfits became friends for two reasons: “The primary bond was our status as outsiders in the caste system of teenagers, but more importantly it was our ability to make each other laugh. We had found each other out of necessity, and this made our fraternity strong.” Spetta paints a bucolic picture of rural Long Island in simpler times, when children explored and camped out in the woods near their houses, only returning home when parents shouted or rang a bell. It’s a land that’s later wiped away by progress, like a low tide flowing back to the ocean: “We were the last Algonquians to walk under the canopy of leaves that led to the sea.” This grand adventure starts innocently, with the three children at play, but grows to encompass a found boat, a hidden treasure, a murder mystery, an overland quest and even the American space program. The action takes place over a few fall days in a believable, tranquil setting. Secondary characters, including a crotchety old hermit and a lustful, greedy minister, help elevate the diverting narrative. Occasional spelling and punctuation errors can sometimes be distracting, but overall, the novel provides a colorful journey back to a nearly forgotten time. The author’s portraits of his baby boomer characters are spot-on as they seek to discover their true north.
Spetta takes what could have been merely a quaint look back at the ’60s and makes it into an unforgettable tale of enduring friendship.