THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED by Scott Lax

THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An overwritten and often melodramatic take on a group of friends living in a small Ohio town as they wait for the 1970 draft lottery. First-novelist Lax, an Ohio journalist, tries hard to evoke the conflicting emotions and tensions of the times, but his characters seem more like those varied casts deliberately assembled for a murder in an old country house. There’s Casey, the narrator, who is sharing a place in the countryside with three housemates: dope-fiend Hairball, Buddhist groupie Jeff, and wannabe musician Phil. They’ve all just graduated from the local high school and are passing the time till the 1970 draft by doing odd jobs, drinking, taking drugs, and partying. Casey is deeper and more sensitive than his mates; he reads books, doesn—t do drugs, and thinks about life as he takes long walks in the woods with his dog Lion. The boys— neighbors, young married couple Helen and Charlie, are also waiting for the draft. The war is a constant in their lives, of course, and even their small hometown is affected: They’re in a bar when a disturbed veteran tries to shoot the barman and in turn is killed by a fearful patron. Meanwhile, when they—re not partying, they talk about what they will do if drafted, while Helen and Jeff spend hours chanting Buddhist prayers as a way of averting trouble. Though he already has a girlfriend, Casey finds himself falling for Helen. Tensions mount and a planned cathartic pre-draft party ends in betrayals and fights. An ambitious attempt that fails either to illuminate or evoke the mood and the times of a profoundly troubled era.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8397-8660-3
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998