Customer Reviews for

Sag Harbor

Average Rating 3.5
( 116 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(35)

3 Star

(28)

2 Star

(20)

1 Star

(8)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

Thought Provoking, Humorous, and Engrossing

This is a wonderfully written coming of age story. The prose is thought-provoking, humorous, and engrossing. The author uses humor to effectively bring important issues to the reader's consciousness. The author brings the reader back to the 1980's and all the quirky hap...
This is a wonderfully written coming of age story. The prose is thought-provoking, humorous, and engrossing. The author uses humor to effectively bring important issues to the reader's consciousness. The author brings the reader back to the 1980's and all the quirky happenings of that time; New Coke - need I say more. We also get a view into the issues that race and class present for teenagers just trying to learn how to fit in to such a complicated world. Also important is the realization and subsequent respect of our history and what generations before us went through and accomplished so that we may live as we do today. It is coming to terms with/recognizing that things we take for granted now were fought for and a price was paid by those who fought for them. The book starts out somewhat light-heartedly and then slowly weaves in the darkness that comes with family dysfunction and alcoholism. It is a well-rounded, funny, and sometimes heart-breaking story of growing up in a world full of choices and consequences.

posted by jclay26 on March 14, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

Plot Please

They say if you don't get into a book in the first 50 pages, it's probably not for you. I gave it 80 pages. I wanted to like this book. I liked the characters in the beginning, and the trip down memory lane but...it kept on walking down that lane, relying on touching so...
They say if you don't get into a book in the first 50 pages, it's probably not for you. I gave it 80 pages. I wanted to like this book. I liked the characters in the beginning, and the trip down memory lane but...it kept on walking down that lane, relying on touching something that might make us reminisce long enough to just keep going. I need more than that. I need a plot, to know a story is going somewhere, internal or external but going somewhere. This to me after that many pages, was still in the same place. I became bored and the characters also began to bore me, so I had to give it up. Nice writing style, but not my cup of tea.

posted by vivico1 on March 9, 2009

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Plot Please

    They say if you don't get into a book in the first 50 pages, it's probably not for you. I gave it 80 pages. I wanted to like this book. I liked the characters in the beginning, and the trip down memory lane but...it kept on walking down that lane, relying on touching something that might make us reminisce long enough to just keep going. I need more than that. I need a plot, to know a story is going somewhere, internal or external but going somewhere. This to me after that many pages, was still in the same place. I became bored and the characters also began to bore me, so I had to give it up. Nice writing style, but not my cup of tea.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Thought Provoking, Humorous, and Engrossing

    This is a wonderfully written coming of age story. The prose is thought-provoking, humorous, and engrossing. The author uses humor to effectively bring important issues to the reader's consciousness. The author brings the reader back to the 1980's and all the quirky happenings of that time; New Coke - need I say more. We also get a view into the issues that race and class present for teenagers just trying to learn how to fit in to such a complicated world. Also important is the realization and subsequent respect of our history and what generations before us went through and accomplished so that we may live as we do today. It is coming to terms with/recognizing that things we take for granted now were fought for and a price was paid by those who fought for them. The book starts out somewhat light-heartedly and then slowly weaves in the darkness that comes with family dysfunction and alcoholism. It is a well-rounded, funny, and sometimes heart-breaking story of growing up in a world full of choices and consequences.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 16, 2009

    Sag Harbor

    Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead isn't a book I would typically have chosen at the bookstore to read. So I'm glad I joined in the Barnes and Nobles First Look Book club experience which exposed me to this story. It is truly a coming of age story during the 1980's. The story struck a chord with me, because even though I was 26 at the time versus Benji's 15, his experiences brought back many memories from that period of time, plus when I was his age. The music, the special handshakes, ditching your best friend for a date, trying to impress the opposite sex, sibling rivalry and of course, trying to fit in. Benji's story not only explores the life of a teenager trying to be a teenager and fit in, but all the issues of family, friends, race and social life.

    The story is interesting, humorous, thought provoking, heart rendering at times and I highly recommend it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Boys Only?

    When this book first arrived in the mail my husband took one look and said, "you aren't going to like this book...I might like it, but you won't." I disagreed with him. However half-way through the book, I realized what he meant. I think it's more of a "boy" book, if that makes sense.
    I was excited that the book was set in the mid-80's, but in retrospect that had very little to do with the story. In addition I found the growing disconnect within the family depressing.
    I thought the story started off at a great pace, but quickly slowed almost to a halt for me. I guess all in all, there were not enough parallels between my life and the authors for it to sound any chords in my mind or imagination.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2009

    I wasn't thrill by this novel

    I truly cannot say that this book captured my interest and that I "had" to finish it. On the contrary, I really had to push myself to take the time to read it.
    Nevertheless, I don't think it is badly written and I am more inclined to think that it is due to the fact that I am not an american and, besides I wasn't raised here. Therefore, I am sure there are many subtles things that I haven't catched; many cultural details I am missing, etc.
    I can not recommend the book nor could I express a knowledgeable opinion about it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2009

    SNOOZE

    The book did NOT hold my interest at all, which I find strange since I was one of those African-American kids who spent my school days in predominantly white schools and my summers in Sag Harbor or Martha's Vineyard.

    There were too many useless details to keep me interested. I didn't even bother to finish the book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    Guess that I'm not the Target Audience!

    A coming of age story set in 1985 might be relevant to my children, but it missed with me by quite a distance. Colson Whitehead's "Sag Harbor" is well written; his language is engaging. But my thrall with the book ended there. Just when I began to think that we were actually getting to an engrossing plot line within the story, Whitehead would add so many historic tangents and examples that I would lose the original point. When he would bring us back, then it was abrupt and anti-climactic. Other factors that would have been interesting to explore, like the effect of his parents rocky relationship on his maturation, were simply glossed over. All that said, Whitehead does have a very comfortable way with words, which is what kept me reading to the end. So as a white, middle-class matron, I feel that I couldn't relate to enough of the story to find some common ground for enjoyment. I hope that you can!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Tried to like this nice guy...

    I've written this review from 42 angles and deleted each one. Reading Sag Harbor was laborious for me. To top it all off, I watched an interview with the author and found him to be really great. I hate that. I don't want to talk crap about his book. Those of you interested in a different slant on the standard coming of age tale might finish this one. I couldn't.

    And that always makes me feel so small, not being able to appreciate a story. If we read to escape our known world, to learn about peoples and places different from our own, then shouldn't this old, poor, white woman be able to enjoy a witty, funny tale of a rich, black boy? I kept trying, but the sarcastic tone and jumbled scenes were too much for me.

    Sag Harbor is certainly a different angle on the standard coming-of-age tale, but I'm just not great with rich kids. Example? I kept screaming at Holden Caulfield to 'just go home.'

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2009

    absolutely beautiful book

    similar in style to Marilynne Robinson's works - where every word is holy, and every scene means something else....

    i took much of it to be an allegorical tale of blacks coming of age in this country....one in which cultural differences are overshadowed by the sameness of our experience...

    oh..plus it's hysterical....

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Sag Harbor is a blast from the past

    Colson Whitehead's coming of age novel manages to step back in time to 1985 and catch a year in the life of an affluent black student that will resonate with readers young and old. Benji Cooper is 15, lives a life many would envy. "A Cosby family" with a prewar classic 7 in New York City, Benji has a father who is a doctor and a mother who is a lawyer. And like other affluent families, Benji spends the summer on Sag Harbor in a neighborhood where blacks and whites live separate lives. Whitehead manages to to take us back to a year when life is still sweet for Benji who is coming of age and is handed the luxury of a summer for the most part free of parental supervision. Sag Harbor is an enjoyable read that manages to accurately depict a pivotal year in the life of a young man seeking to learn about girls and himself and how he fits in. The author expertly draws a picture of what life was like for the token black in prep school who gets to escape to a community when every family consists of African-American professionals. So take a trip down memory lane back to 1985 and relive all those moments along with Benji. You won't regret it no matter how old you are!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2009

    Delightful

    Colson Whitehead is truly very talented, and a master of description. Yes, the book is filled with description, not so much of things, but of events, memories, and experiences.

    Be prepared to be drawn into his world. It may or may not be one you can relate to, but for me, even though my upbringing was very different, the teenage experience rang true. Isn't being a teenager laregly about overcoming awkwardness and discovering who you are inside your own skin? And yet it happens so slowly and painfully....again, another point that rang true was the dysfunctional aspects of his family...they were there in the background, yet his summer still managed to be about the summer job, the girls, the friends, and the goofing off.

    If you enjoy a realistic retrospective type plot, rather than high drama, then I highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2009

    Just Ok

    I had a hard time with this book. It is more a set of short stories than an actual novel, and each chapter seems to end before the story is actually over. In each case, I wanted more; I wanted to know what happened!

    My favorite parts of the books were the descriptions of the summer job the main character held. I had a similar job in high school and I could easily put myself in the Jonni Waffle to see what was going on.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2009

    Enlightening

    Sag Harbor is a very interesting, though sometimes difficult, read. A reminiscing of middle class Afro-American teenagers' summers by the shores of New England. Although very fanciful and funny, the story line did not flow smoothly. I found myself rereading various phases in order to make sense of what was taking place or being said.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2009

    Dag!

    Sag Harbor is the first book that I've read by Colson Whitehead. I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a story about a summer in Sag Harbor and much more. The author goes into great detail and touches on subjects that kept me reminiscing my youth. I was a lot like Benji, I think that is why I enjoyed this book so much. The closer I got to the end, the more I kept thinking "I don't want this book to end."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2009

    "Ain't No Stopping Us Now"

    This book is a delightful read, no matter what age you are. Mr. Whitehead has captured a summer vacation on Sag Harbor for Benji, (the main character), his family and friends so well that I feel like I was there. The summer of 1985 for the Community of African-Americans and particularly life for the teens and tweens at Sag Harbor was funny, thoughtful and a re-read for me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A story anyone who lived through the 80's or was ever a teenager can enjoy.

    We are introduced to Benji and his family as they make their annual summer long trek out to Sag Harbor. The community of the upper/upper middle class African Americans who want to have their own summer place, just like their white counterparts.

    The writing style takes a little to get used to but once I was hooked the writing didn't matter only the story did. At times it seemed as if one tale had little or nothing to do with the next but as you step back and look at the story as a whole everything is there for a reason.

    I quickly grew attached to Benji and short of a few incidents he seems to be a really good kid, just trying to find his place between two societies. The white prep-school kids he's with at school and his black Sag Harbor friends that he shares his summers with. We are also taken into the 80's with catch phrases like "Dag" and the music that is so often referred to in this book. And anyone who's been a teenager can relate to the situations that Benji finds himself in.

    Overall this is one of the best books I've read recently.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2009

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    Sag Harbor

    Colson Whitehead calls this his "autobiographical fourth novel" and in it he takes the reader back to the Sag Harbor he remembers from the mid 80s. The story is all about fitting in. Our protagonist, Benji, comes from a Cosby-esc family; is one of a few kids-of-color in a private New York Prep school; and spends his summers at Sag Harbor. The book is composed of a series of short vignettes that focus in on Benji's coming-of-age during one Sag Harbor summer. I would recommend this book for book clubs since it raises many issues that I feel would spark some interesting discussions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2009

    Not so much

    I had a very difficult time trying to get into this book. I don't have a ton of time to dedicate for reading, so a book needs to grab me within the first 6 chapters, otherwise I move on. This book had an interesting writing style, but it took too many jumps in the thoughts to make a clear picture to me.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

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    Boys will be boys

    Mr Whitehead gives us his semi autobiographical novel Sag Harbor, in it he describes life as known by Benji a fifteen year old left to his own devices one summer.
    It's funny and touching and gives us a sense of what it felt like to be him, and I'm glad to have been there for the ride.
    The writing is impeccable, his use of phrases and his impressions of different scenes made it easy for me to visualize the goings on in the book. Even though the story isn't unique, a coming of age book for a boy, the telling of it is, and it was done with humor and insight that could only come from personal experience. The characters were also outstanding, they were well developed and multi-dimensional which is a real feat being they are mostly compiled of adolescent boys.
    I would highly recommend this book to any one who enjoys great writing, outstanding humor and a look into what it means to be a boy of 15.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    An interesting book

    Sag Harbor reminded me of just how painfully dorky I was as a teenager. I think I like reading these kinds of memoirs because they help me remember that I was not alone in my awkwardness. Colson Whitehead (called Benji in this book) struggled with the difference between Sag Harbor, where his family vacationed, and New York, where they lived. The culture and race differences were very noticeable, and in addition to having to grow up, he also had to figure out who he was and where he belonged. While Whitehead did have a tendency to go overboard and get sidetracked with descriptions, I still enjoyed the book and it had many funny moments.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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