There’s nothing I like better than a good historical fiction novel to bring history to life. For me, anything before the 1970’s is history, and America Volume 1 (Amazon) (AbeBooks) in a seven-part series, takes place in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy from NetGalley, Big City Press and Mike Bond Books in exchange for my honest review.
From the publisher: “The Sixties shook America to its foundation – the assassination of an idealistic young president, a tragic and unpopular war, a battle for civil rights, a cosmic clash of riots and burning cities, and an explosion of sex, drugs and rock ’n roll.
For four young people, the Sixties is a decade of promise and freedom. For orphaned Troy, it’s the joy of living with his new family and exploring the world of flight and outer space. For Tara, the girl he loves, the power of song as she evolves into a rock’n roll star. For his new brother, Mick, a football hero and rebel, a time to question everything, including the fast-growing war in Vietnam. And for Daisy, the girl Mick loves, a chance to fight for equality, join the Peace Corps, and expand her study of the human mind.
America is the first of Mike Bond’s seven-volume historical novel series, capturing the victories and heartbreaks of the last 70 years and of our nation’s most profound upheavals since the Civil War – a time that defined the end of the 20th Century and where we are today.”
At the beginning of the book, I had a little trouble reading the dialect of the two 10-year old boys, Mick and Troy. But I trudged on, and the first 40% of the book was really interesting, telling a coming-of-age story of two boys in New York state, as well as Mick’s sister Tara. Mick and Tara live on a farm with their parents, and know many stories of the Revolutionary War battles that happened nearby. Mick meets Troy, who has run away from an orphanage run by pedophile priests. Soon Troy is welcomed into the O’Brien home.
Like I mentioned, the first part of the book was compelling, up until the boys reach about age 12. Then Mick becomes obsessed with sex. In fact, after that point, all the kids become obsessed with sex. I’m no prude, but the constant mentioning of sex acts was a real turn-off for me. Then, as the kids turn into teenagers, they start having philosophical arguments with themselves and others. Instead of coming off as enlightened kids, they sound like pretentious snobs who certainly were not raised to be that way. Another turn-off. And when they are not prosthelytizing about life, they’re busy having random sex.
Throughout the book, starting with the hatred of Eisenhower as president, there’s a very liberal left-leaning slant to the book. More conservative or Christian values are looked upon with scorn. That’s something to be aware of if you’re thinking about picking up this book. Democrats mostly good, Republicans bad. Kennedy–hero (and not just quoted, full passages of his speeches are given. I’m a huge Kennedy fan, but I thought that was excessive), Nixon awful, Johnson and Vietnam War bad (although, let’s face it, most of us can agree that the Vietnam War, in hindsight, was a bad idea.) I’m not saying I agree or disagree with the sentiments in the book, but it’s information that could be helpful in whether or not you’d get enjoyment out of the book.
As the 1960’s continued and the kids go off to college and air force academy, there’s more sex, and now drugs and rock ‘n roll thrown into the mix. A minor character in the early part of the book, Daisy, is revived to bring home the civil rights battle going on in the southern United States. Daisy had been a love interest to Mick until her family moved to Iowa. Now she’s organizing voter registration in the south through her college contacts. Troy wants to be an astronaut and is doing well in the air force academy until one day, he’s not. His vision changes for the worse, and he’s grounded. So he decides the next best thing is to become a Marine like his dad had been and get to Vietnam so he can kill some people, even though while growing up, he hated shooting deer and killing turkeys on the farm, even though it meant food for the family. It makes no sense.
For the last 20% of the book, I found myself skimming because I just wanted it to be over with. I did not care about these characters and where they were going in their lives, despite initially liking them when they were younger. Included with the ARC is the first chapter of volume 2 in the series. I think I’ll pass.
America, Volume 1, goes on sale to the general public on May 4, 2021.
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