Summer of ’69

Written by Todd Strasser
Review by Viviane Crystal

Lucas Baker is living a dream. Most of the time he’s either smoking pot, hash or whatever he can get—and popping pills is a beloved alternative. Yes, he, Robin and their friends belong to the Hippie Generation of the late 1960s. Lucas has been telling himself to get serious about school and work but is focused instead on driving his psychedelic-painted Odysseus and loving his girlfriend, Robin.

The war in Vietnam is in full swing, and the letters Lucas receives from his soldier-friend Chris convey the soldier’s panic and intense fear. Americans are hated by the Vietnamese, and killing is more reactive than planned strategy. The more Lucas reads, the more desperate he becomes to escape the draft. His parents seem oblivious to his life. An interesting section talks about the reading Lucas does to shore up his moral and philosophical contention of being a conscientious objector. Life at home is non-existent, as his parents appear headed for divorce, and his siblings and friends seem lost in their own fantasies. Robin hints at a break in their relationship, and a friend, Tinsley, seems to romance every passing male, including Lucas. Woodstock is a funky experience that blows the minds of the participants.

Summer of ’69 is a comprehensive depiction of hippies’ lives during the tumultuous times of the late ’60s, when freedom was taken to its limit but reshaped an entire generation. At rock bottom, Lucas experiences an unexpected act of redemption which radically changes his world. This novel is a powerful account of the years when conformity is rejected, and rebellion becomes the norm. Supportive love becomes the glue that heals, binds and builds anew.