Jon, Ray and Frank are high school buddies coming of age in the late 1960s in a small town in upstate New York. The weather is as frozen as America’s heart, wasting away from trauma after trauma. John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King are assassinated. The Vietnam War is in full gear, and our three main characters are wondering if they’re going to be drafted.
What saves the day is the music, avidly heard and robustly sung by anyone and everyone. The ability to carry a tune is not a prerequisite for those who love these tunes, with their anti-establishment, shocking but honest lyrics. These young teens serve as the harbinger of truth, a Greek chorus questioning how real these tragic events are and lamenting how powerless ordinary citizens feel to change anything. Where hope is absent on a national level, family dysfunction seems to increase in parallel fashion.
The unique quality of this novel concerns the different reactions of the three main characters to each horrifying event, symbolic of what’s going on in the larger national and international arena. Numbness and pain become subsumed into a new wave of folk and rock music. While Slouka does not provide easy or maudlin responses, the strengths of these characters emerges as the pivotal means of coping and healing. Brewster is an amazing work of historical fiction and highly recommended. You won’t be able to forget this searing story!