A Place We Knew Well
by Susan Carol McCarthy
Why did you choose this book? the premise sucked me in
When did you read this book? September 2015
Who should read this book? readers of period fiction set in the 60s
Source: Penguin First To Read
Here is a synopsis of A Place We Knew Well from Penguin First To Read
“Susan Carol McCarthy blends fact, memory, imagination and truth with admirable grace,” said The Washington Post of the author’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands. Now McCarthy returns with another enthralling story of a family—their longings, their fears, and their secrets—swept up in the chaos at the height of the Cold War.
Late October, 1962. Wes Avery, a one-time Air Force tail-gunner, is living his version of the American Dream as loving husband to Sarah, doting father to seventeen-year-old Charlotte, and owner of a successful Texaco station along central Florida’s busiest highway. But after President Kennedy announces that the Soviets have nuclear missiles in Cuba, Army convoys clog the highways and the sky fills with fighter planes. Within days, Wes’s carefully constructed life begins to unravel.
Sarah, nervous and watchful, spends more and more time in the family’s bomb shelter, slipping away into childhood memories and the dreams she once held for the future. Charlotte is wary but caught up in the excitement of high school—her nomination to homecoming court, the upcoming dance, and the thrill of first love. Wes, remembering his wartime experience, tries to keep his family’s days as normal as possible, hoping to restore a sense of calm. But as the panic over the Missile Crisis rises, a long-buried secret threatens to push the Averys over the edge.
With heartbreaking clarity and compassion, Susan Carol McCarthy captures the shock and innocence, anxiety and fear, in those thirteen historic days, and brings vividly to life one ordinary family trying to hold center while the world around them falls apart.
I saw this one offered as part of the Penguin First To Read program. When I saw the cover on this one, I loved it! It is so ‘early 60s’! I’ve been wanting to read some historical fiction set in the 60s, so I picked this one up. One thing I really enjoyed about the book is the feeling of ‘nostalgia’ I got while reading it. I really don’t remember the Cuban Missile crisis as I was a very young child when it happened. In fact, until I read this book, I thought the the terms ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ and ‘Bay of Pigs’ were interchangeable! I think I have a vague memory of duck and cover drills, or maybe I just remember being told about them. And I definitely remember the black and yellow signs that designated the basement of my elementary school as a ‘fall out shelter’. But reading about these things made me laugh because — did people seriously believe you could go into a basement for a couple of days and avoid contamination from radioactive elements!? But the tension over the Cuban Missile Crisis and the panic people felt over the possible ‘end of the world’ seemed very real.
I also enjoyed the descriptions of the old filling station run by Wes and the excitement of homecoming. What I didn’t enjoy so much was the actual story line. I never really felt much of a bond with most of the characters. Also there was a bit of a twist that was kind of sprung on us, and then it was left dangling. We are told that Charlotte felt these were dark days because of that twist, and that she didn’t care to remember them, but I never really ‘felt her pain’. All in all, while I enjoyed reading the book and experiencing a bit of what the Cuban Missile Crisis must have felt like, this is a pretty forgettable book. However, if you are looking for a book with an early 60s flavor, you will probably enjoy this one!
My Rating: ★★★1/2 3-1/2 Stars
I received an advanced review copy of this book through the Penguin First To Read program. The expected publication date is September 29, 2015.