The Best People in the World
Rebellion and novelty were the hallmarks of American youth in the early 1970s, a period Justin Tussing brilliantly brings to focus in this well-written novel. Thomas Mahey, a seventeen-year-old, introverted teenager, breaks out of his shell and becomes romantically involved with his twenty-five-year-old teacher, Alice Lowe, and an older, mysterious anarchist, Shiloh Tanager. Off they travel to join a group dedicated to living freely and fully. The progression of their relationship, like most political and psychological events of those years, is anything but simple. The reader will discover that there are singular, haunting secrets that foster the rage of the oddest revolutionaries. Such characters catalyze other more sedate people into seeking novelty, a quest which often lacked foresight about consequences. The redeeming factor in this novel is the deep care these three characters develop for each other despite the shocking and even mundane events that threaten their connection.
Tussing has a terrific handle on the pulse of youthful ideas, challenges, dreams, and possibilities, not limited to the ’70s. Whether a reader lived in that time or not, this story will attract, confuse, and ultimately disturb one’s typical ideas of what constitutes “normal” life. These are not twisted characters but caring, decent human beings seeking to create an uncomplicated community in a complicated set of circumstances that each fails to realize have accompanied them on this journey. While the story lags a bit toward the end, its youthful energy carries the reader through the majority of this evolving utopian dream. This is clearly a refreshing, talented writer to watch in the future.