Loss of Innocence
The 1960s were volatile, impassioned, and revolutionary years. In this prequel to Fall from Grace, Richard North Patterson deviates from many of his usual themes to explore the world of the rich and struggling residents of Martha’s Vineyard during these tumultuous times. Whitney Dane comes from a wealthy family who manipulate economics and politics to their own beliefs. They seem to have forgotten from whence they came. Whitney is about to marry Peter, a fatherless young man who has been taken under the wings of Whitney’s father, Charles Dane, for employment and to escape the Vietnam War draft. Her sister is the darling beauty of the family whose life is spiraling downward at a frightening pace, something Whitney alone worries will end in disaster.
Then Whitney’s world is overturned when she meets angry, young Benjamin Blaine. Ben is devastated by the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and conveys his sarcastic, cynical views about those now running for office, including Richard Nixon. The questions he poses to Whitney force her to ponder her previously inherited and unexamined beliefs about family and politics, as well as her upcoming marriage to a mindless follower of Republican politics and her desire to write about what truly matters. When her father interferes in her life with a momentous act, she discovers his real deceit, and as Whitney’s sister falls even further, the entire family is dramatically affected.
This is Whitney’s powerful, painful coming-of-age tale. While the historical gist of the story is given surface treatment, Patterson manages to convey the essence of ideal, wealthy lives caught up in a very human world. Whitney’s family may not live happily ever after, but they are forced to wake up; indeed, they are a microcosm within the forces that shaped history and American society during those momentous times. Nicely done!