Review by Booklist Review
Civil disobedience is intrinsic to American culture from the Boston Tea Party onward, and dissenters, especially the fugitive activists of the 1970s, fascinate novelists, including Jay Cantor and Christopher Sorrentino. Spiotta also explores the pain and paradoxes of underground lives as she empathically portrays Mary and Bobby, lovers forced apart by an antiwar action gone terribly wrong. But it is the connections and contrasts she draws between Vietnam War-era protesters and today's anticorporate activists that distinguish this incisive and haunting novel. Set in Seattle, birthplace of Microsoft and Starbucks, Spiotta's keenly observant and caustically funny tale revolves around an enigmatic woman and her teenage son who are startled to discover that they share a passion for the Beach Boys, and a quirky guy who runs an alternative bookstore and serves as anarchistic guru to teens in opposition to commercialized culture. Using the younger generation's fascination with 1970s pop culture to profound effect, Spiotta succinctly and dramatically sizes up today's chillingly cynical corporate kingdom, where resistance is medicated, appropriated, and commodified. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2006 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Lives in the aftermath of 1970s radicalism form the basis of Spiotta's follow-up to her debut, Lightning Field. We meet Mary Whittaker as she goes underground and tests out a series of new names for herself in a motel room. Flash forward to the 21st century, where Mary, now "Caroline," is a single mother whose teenage son, Jason, seems to have inherited her restlessness. (Jason checks into the narrative via his journal entries.) Mary's partner in subversion and in bed was Bobby DeSoto, who, now closing in on 50 and going by the name of Nash, runs a leftist bookstore called Prairie Fire for his friend Henry, a troubled Vietnam vet. The unspoken affection between Henry and Nash and the many nuances of their deep friendship, beautifully rendered by Spiotta, give the book a compelling core. A young woman named Miranda becomes the improbable object of Nash's skittish affection. And when Jason begins to discover bits of his mother's past, Mary begins to resurface-with possibly disastrous results. As plot lines entangle, Spiotta tightens the narrative and shortens the chapters, which doesn't really add tension or pace. The result is a very spare set of character studies not well-enough served by the resolution. A near miss. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Spiotta's (Lightning Field) second novel is a forthright and fascinating look at American counterculture at the end of the 20th century. Mary (later Caroline, then Louise) and her lover Bobby are members of a 1970s activist group. When a protest goes violently wrong, they must separately change their identities and go "underground." Fast-forward to 1990s Seattle, where Louise's teenage son, a bootleg music junkie, wants to discover his mother's secret, and a comic book store is a meeting place for anarchist revolutionaries of all stripes. The narrative alternates between the recent past and a more distant time, tracing Mary's journey and evolution into Louise as she attempts to leave her old identity behind. This work is particularly smart about the ironies and contradictions of the modern protest movement, in which even anarchy can be appropriated and sold by capitalist culture. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.