Customer Reviews for

Sag Harbor

Average Rating 3.5
( 116 )
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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 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 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 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 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2010

    Fun, Easy Read

    I really enjoyed this book. It's a fun, easy to read coming of age story. I found myself literally laughing out loud and flashing back to my own youth. I enjoyed reading this book.

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

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    A Coming of Age Story For Everyone

    "Sag Harbor" can best be described as a ficticious coming-of-age biography. While not a true story, "Sag Harbor" clearly is a story that shadows the authors own similar life experience. Given that, the story stays very true and honest to itself.

    The story is set on the Long Island, NY beach resort town of Sag Harbor. Then main character, Benji, comes from an affluent black family who remind you somewhat of The Cosby's but a bit more edgier, more street. We follow the protagonist from day one of his summer in Sag Harbor all the way thru to his final day there just after a big community Labor Day party.

    I was able to connect to the story in many ways. The story takes place during the summer of 1985. I too was living my own coming of age story on some level in that year and in that area of the county. I could relate to the stories of life in beach towns and of music and nostaliga of the mid 80's.

    Colson Whitehead's writing style is easy going and intelligent. He can masterfully over analyze a subject as an aside and still not lose your interest. I am very curious to find out now just what parts of the story were very close real life tales masked only by character names. Deffinitly a great summer read!

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    Engaging Coming of Age Story

    Sag Harbor, which is in the Eastern part of Long Island, New York, was apparently and may still be a summer destination for professional black families from the New York City area, who owned homes there. The author tells the story of a black teenager's summer in Sag Harbor, when he was 15 years old, in 19??, from his perspective. His family had been summering there all his life. He and his brother, younger by less than one year, spent the summer weeks there mostly alone. Their parents came out on the weekends when they could. The book focuses on the boy's adventures with his group of male friends, but also gives a family portrait of the boys and their parents, and their missing sister, who has started college and stays away primarily to get away from their tyrannical father.
    The book is structured to gives the highlights of the summer. It does not have any real plot. It is easy to read and extremely funny at times. We get to understand the history of the family and the community. The boy celebrates some important milestones that summer - his first job, his first kiss, and the responsibility of being the oldest child when his parents are back home.
    At times, the book had the feel to me of Jean Sheppard's stories, although his were of younger kids. This was especially the case when I got to the story of the boy's antics with BB guns.

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  • Posted January 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    More fun than a horseshoe-crab pitching contest!

    I love how Whitehead's character's minds work. This fiction is the product of a real artist, as a novelist. Still, I miss the depth and subtle subterfuge of The Intuitionist, or John Henry Days. This work seems to me a little more writerly and less literary than previous works. It is at once more immediate and less engaging. Can't wait to read what Colson crafts next.

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  • Posted November 17, 2009

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    Sweet, but anti-climatic

    When Colson Whitehead said the book is about a summer and nothing really happens, he's not lying. But that's what makes the book work: Colson realizes that a lot of events that occur during one's youth doesn't hold any weight until they're adults; which makes the book feel more like a memoir than a fictional work. Secondly, the novel addresses the dual identity African-Americans face as being apart of a social class (middle and upper class Hampton residents) and racial class (black).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2009

    Sag Harbor

    It's a good and entertaining read. One of Colson Whitehead's best books.

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  • Posted March 13, 2009

    Sag Harbor

    This book brought me back to my own memories of Long Island and growing up. Mr. Whitehead gives readers an in-depth view about his experiences as an African-American in Sag Harbor. He is a fabulous writer who creates well-crafted descriptions. His memoir inspired me to get back to working on mine!

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  • Posted March 13, 2009

    A wonderful read!!

    Such a great read! Blends dramatic topics such as race and family dysfunction with humor to create a wonderful story of a boy's summer in Sag Harbor. The book crosses race, generations, gender, and culture, telling a story of adolecence that is relatable to almost any reader. Anyone who grew up in the 80's will find much humor in the various 80's references. Would strongly recommend this book to others!

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  • Posted March 12, 2009

    Black teenager, caught between two worlds, edges toward identity, maturity

    Benji Cooper's parents are affluent professionals (He is the only black student in his New York City prep school.), and maintain a summer residence in Sag Harbor, surrounded there by other well-to-do African-Americans. In this novel, Colson Whitehead details the events of the summer of 1985, when Benji leaves his white classmates behind for 3 months and reconnects with the black friends he hasn't seen since the previous Labor Day. He is 15 years old, and his brother, Reggie, is 10 months younger. The boys are left on their own much of the time, as parental attendance on weekends-only seems to be the norm. Thus the stage is set for adventure--and misadventure, both of which are related with humor and insight. Reggie gets a job at Burger King right away, but Benji secures his first employment-making waffle cones in an ice cream shop-only when necessity dictates--the food supply is getting low!

    Anyone who has been a teenager can relate to Benji's desire for status in his peer group and attention from the opposite sex, not to mention independence and approval from the adult world. Mr. Whitehead's sense of humor and his use of language are delightful, and we often find ourselves laughing out loud at his vivid descriptions of events past and present.

    On the serious side, the novel also addresses the issues of race, prejudice and abuse. We see, for example, that education and high pay do not automatically equate with fairness and good character, and we learn that cultural differences may result in misunderstandings that can undermine good intentions. Did you know, for example, that patting a black person's head is likely to be considered an insult by the recipient of this meant-to-be-affectionate gesture?

    Sag Harbor is a book that is at once entertaining and thought-provoking. It is a treat-for the mind, and for the funny bone. Enjoy!

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  • Posted March 12, 2009

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    Nice read!

    I laughed from cover to cover! This was a great coming of age story and I would recommend that everyone read this book!

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  • Posted March 11, 2009

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    Oh the joys of summer!

    Colson Whitehead draws the reader into the mind of Benji, a teenager, as he navigates not only the seemingly life altering experiences such as braces, first job and social ineptitude, but also the deeper issues of racial identity and family dynamics.
    Whitehead paints a picture of Sag Harbor-the site of Benji's family summer house-so vivid, one feels as if it is familiar.
    Dialect that is funny and engaging along with a story which is light yet complex make this a must read for book clubs and anyone who remembers the roller coaster ride that is puberty! A "summer" in Sag Harbor is not nearly long enough!

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

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    A wonderous story of one boy's summer in 1985

    This is delightful and heartfelt coming of age story from a unique point of view that we don't normally see in this genre, a young black male or at least I haven't seen much of it. If you've read this blog with any regularity you will know that I'm not a big coming of age or memior type book person but I thought that this book sound interesting. The premise intrigued me, a young black male experiencing his adolescence on the "shore".

    I would say that I'm in heavy like with this book. It's a great piece of nostalgia for those of us who experienced our adolescence in the 80s but I'm not sure I loved it. I routed for Benji but at the same time I thought that Benji's voice was confusing at times. Was he writing this in retrospect as an adult or were we supposed to believe that Benji was that intuitive at 15? For most of the book I was say it's the former. It feels that at times the book is written in a journal like fashion. What I mean by this is that it seems as if the author found a journal from that time period in his life and began to write chapters about his experience. It's an interesting way to write but at times it left me scratching my head.

    Benji's life is not without problems. Throughout the book it is hinted at that there are problems in his parents marriage and we never get to truly meet his sister, although the absence of her is explained in the later part of the book. There are some disturbing situations that the young boys get themselves into but nothing that I thought was out of the ordinary. I figured it was what happened when kids were left alone and pretty much had to fend for themselves.

    Colson Whitehead is a gifted writer; there is no doubt about that but at times he was a bit wordy. I felt myself skipping over paragraphs at a time to move the story along in a speedier fashion. Mr. Whitehead is the featured author this month at Barnes and Nobles First Look club and is happily fielding questions from us readers. One of the question was "Why did you write this book as an autobiographical novel instead of a memoir?" His answer, so he could make the characters do what he thought they should do and so he could take liberties with the truth. Frankly, since I'm not a big memoir fan I found this statement delightful. Reading some of Mr. Whitehead's responses I find him to be quite humorous and witty.

    What makes Sag Harbor: A Novel distinguishable in this genre is that it is about affluent black people who create their own community and how it shapes one young man's life.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

    Sag Harbor

    As a few other readers have mentioned I was not sure I was going to enjoy this book but once I began I finished it in one sitting.
    The characters pulled me in and I really wanted to see where their adventures would take them.
    I liked the fact that the adults and/or parents of the boys did not play a major role but were kept in the background; almost in the shawdows and not fully developed - after all the focus was on the boys.
    I have brought my copy into the office to share with my co-workers and am looking forward to the responses from them.

    Lori C.
    Worcester, Ma.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

    A thought provoking and mind expanding read by Coleson Whitehead

    The characters in this book were real and honest and people from all cultures and age groups can find truths to relate to on the pages of this book. Reading this made me smile, feel sad, feel angry, and remember things from my own adolescence.
    My only criticism would be that it read like a memoir or a series of short stories more than a novel and did not have a cohesive plot.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

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    Great Coming of Age Story

    This is a great coming of age story about a young man and his family who had the great opportunity to have a summer vacation home to go to. It describes the changes that he has personally gone through from summer to summer and how the island has changed from childhood to his teens. It reminds us of a simpler time (or what we may THINK is a simpler time) but there are so many underlying conflicts and issues that unless you live them, you wouldn't know were there. This was defininitely one of the best First Look books I have read and highly recommend it.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

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    An enjoyable read

    An enjoyable coming of age novel. The characters, settings and events are very realistic - at times, eliciting my own childhood memories. The author did a fantastic job developing the characters. Highly recommended.

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