A science teacher’s life becomes transformed by his friendship with a charismatic and deeply spiritual man in this novel.
Tom Haley overcame a troubled childhood to build a rewarding career as a science teacher on Staten Island. One day, while walking along the Mariners Harbor waterfront, he meets Amon Takoda, a young man living in an abandoned tugboat. The men discover an instant rapport, with Amon’s spiritual nature providing an intellectual counterpoint to Tom’s scientific inclination. Tom soon finds that Amon has unique gifts that defy rational explanation. He can recount specific details of Tom’s childhood, and he possesses the ability to heal injured animals and people. While Tom’s girlfriend, Martha, is skeptical of the magnetic stranger, Amon falls in love with her friend Mary. As word of Amon’s abilities spreads, he is profiled in the local newspaper, in which he receives the moniker “The Mariners Harbor Messiah.” With the support of Tom and the community, Amon turns an old house into a place for anyone who may have fallen on hard times. Despite Amon’s good intentions, he meets resistance from community members and developers who disapprove of his plans. When the opposition takes a violent turn, Tom fears Amon’s life may be in danger. The latest from Daley (1950s-1960s Fable, 2013, etc.) is a briskly paced exploration of the unlikely friendship between two men from completely different worlds set amid the changing social and political landscape of the 1970s. Tom and Amon are likable protagonists whose idealism inspires them to improve their community through teaching or renovating a home to serve those in need. They are complemented by a large cast of strong supporting characters, including Mary, a woman devoted to Amon and his desire to help others, and Joanie Gardello, Tom’s old high school girlfriend. Throughout the novel, Daley includes brief sketches of notable figures and events in the ’70s, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Bee Gees, and the Camp David Accords. Although the sketches break the momentum of the narrative, they provide valuable historical context.
A compassionate portrait of a turbulent time in American history bolstered by intriguing protagonists and a fast-paced narrative.