Reunionby James Kennedy George Jr
Reunion begins and ends with the 45th reunion of the 1960 class of Princeton, West Virginia. Set in a small town on the southern edge of the state, it deals with usual themes of coming-of-age and high school, as well as the once-in-a-lifetime experience of desegregation and its impact on a group of friends. In addition, the debut novel, written in the first/i>
Reunion begins and ends with the 45th reunion of the 1960 class of Princeton, West Virginia. Set in a small town on the southern edge of the state, it deals with usual themes of coming-of-age and high school, as well as the once-in-a-lifetime experience of desegregation and its impact on a group of friends. In addition, the debut novel, written in the first person in an engaging style, probes the relationship, or lack of it, between an emotionally-distant father and his son, who much later in life begins to understand what it means to grow up as the adult child of an alcoholic.
The characters are rich and varied, with the very essence of Americana: high school, football, and social interactions on multiple levels; the music of the 50’s; the thrill of short-wave ham radio; a unique peer group, including an emerging high school rock band; and of course the family of origin, a complex mix of stately Virginians and more informal Kentuckians.
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The story pivots around the 45th year high school reunion of Jimmy. Like all such reunions,it is natural to reflect on how “life has turned out”. Even though Jimmy is now an older man, not everything from those earlier years has been “worked out”. And so, these reflections are more than just a review of Jimmy’s life: they are an important and complicating factor in his current circumstances. Jimmy and his friend’s lives have not been remarkable, so it is not a book, likes so many, about characters and circumstances on the upper or lower fringes of the human bell curve. That is, in my mind, what makes this book so good. The book seems (is) authentic/real, more “touchable” if your life has veered toward the center of the” human bell curve”. But don’t worry, there is plenty in even a normal life (family alcoholism, first love and first loss, the slow ending of segregation, even danger) to keep one interested. Because this novel is so authentic in tone, it is hard not to think abut the parallels between the reader’s life and the lives of the characters in the story. It is an unexpected surprise to read a book, only to discover, that to one degree or another, it is story about you!