Loss of Innocence

Loss of Innocence

by Richard North Patterson


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Number one New York Times best-selling author Richard North Patterson, author of more than twenty novels, including Degree of Guilt and Silent Witness, returns with a sweeping family drama of dark secrets and individual awakenings.

Loss of Innocence, the second book in the Blaine trilogy, "in one life of the 1960s, symbolizes a movement that keeps changing all our lives" (Gloria Steinem) in "a richly-layered look at the loss of innocence not only among his characters but that which America lost as a nation." (Martha's Vineyard Times) "An extraordinary novel—profound, emotionally involving and totally addictive," said actor and author Stephen Fry, "this may be Richard North Patterson's best work."

In 1968 America is in turmoil, engulfed in civil unrest and in the midst of an unpopular war. Yet for Whitney Dane—spending the summer of her twenty-first year on Martha's Vineyard, planning a September wedding to her handsome and equally privileged fiance—life could not be safer, nor the future more certain.

Educated at Wheaton, soon to be married, and the youngest daughter of the patrician Dane family, Whitney has everything she has ever wanted, and is everything her doting father, Wall Street titan Charles Dane, wants her to be: smart, sensible, predictable. Nonetheless, Whitney's nascent disquiet about society and her potential role in it is powerfully stimulated by the forces transforming the nation.

The Vineyard's still waters are disturbed by the appearance of Benjamin Blaine, an underprivileged, yet fiercely ambitious and charismatic figure who worked as an aide to the recently slain Bobby Kennedy. Ben's presence accelerates Whitney's growing intellectual independence, inspires her to question long-held truths about her family, and stirs her sexual curiosity. It also brings deep-rooted tensions within the Dane clan to a dangerous head. Soon, Whitney's future seems far less secure, and her ideal family far more human, than she ever could have suspected.

An acknowledged master of the courtroom thriller, Patterson's Blaine trilogy, a bold and surprising departure from his past novels, is a complex family drama pulsing with the tumult of the time and "dripping with summer diversions, youthful passion and ideals, class tensions, and familial disruptions." (Library Journal)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623651237
Publisher: Quercus
Publication date: 06/03/2014
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 272,833
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Richard North Patterson is the author of twenty bestselling novels, including Garden of Eden, Exile, Degree of Guilt, and Silent Witness. He has appeared on Good Morning America, Hardball, and The CBS Morning Show, and his articles on politics, literature, and law have been published inThe London Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury News. He lives in Martha's Vineyard, Cabo San Lucas, and San Francisco with his wife, Dr. Nancy Clair.

Read an Excerpt

The day was bright and clear, and a headwind stirred his curly hair; absorbed in sailing, Ben barely seemed aware of Whitney sitting near the stern. While she did not mind the quiet, it felt as though he was playing the role of her indifferent crew. Then he finally spoke. “I wonder how many more times I’ll get to do this.”

“Because of the draft?”

Ben kept scanning the water. “Because of the war,” he said harshly. “What a pointless death that would be.”

Uneasy, Whitney thought of Peter’s safe haven in the National Guard. “You don’t believe we’re the firewall against Communism?”

His derisive smile came and went. “If you were some Vietnamese peasant, would you want to be ruled by a bunch of crooks and toadies? To win this war, we’d have to pave the entire country, then stay there for fifty years. And if we lose, what does that mean to us? That the Vietnamese are going to paddle thousand of miles across the Pacific to occupy San Francisco?”

Whitney had wondered, too. She chose to say nothing more.

The day grew muggy. Running before the wind, Ben headed toward Tarpaulin Cove, the shelter on an island little more than a sand spit. Hand on the tiller, he seemed more relaxed, his brain and sinews attuned to each shift in the breeze. It was not until they eased into the cove that Ben spoke to her again. “I brought an igloo filled with sandwiches and drinks. Think the two of us can swim it to the beach?”


Stripping down to her swimsuit, Whitney climbed down the rope ladder and began dogpaddling in the cool, invigorating water. Ben peeled off his T-shirt and dove in with the cooler, his sinewy torso glistening in the sun and water. Together, they floated it toward the shore, each paddling with one arm. At length, somewhat winded, they sat on the beach as the surf lapped at their feet. The Vineyard was barely visible; they had come a fair distance, Whitney realized, and yet the trip seemed to have swallowed time. This must be what sailing did for him.

For a time Whitney contented herself, as he did, with eating sandwiches and sipping a cool beer. Curious, she asked, “Is the war why you worked for Bobby?”

Reading Group Guide

Richard North Patterson’s LOSS OF INNOCENCE is a vivid chronicle of an unforgettable moment in American history, deftly paralleling the news headlines with the seismic changes that befall a well-off American family during the summer of 1968. Its themes of love, class struggle, familial obligation, and generational clash are as relevant today as they were a generation ago.

1. While Whitney is the clear protagonist or “heroine” of the novel, is any one character the antagonist or “villain”? What is the main source of the obstacles Whitney must overcome?

2. It is uncommon for a male author to write a novel with a female protagonist. How does Richard North Patterson succeed in doing this?

3. While Charles Dane married into the wealth of Anne’s family, he has also earned his status and prestige through his own intelligence and tenacity as a financier. Discuss how his relationship to wealth throughout his life affects his actions and expressed views in the novel.

4. Where and on whom would you ultimately place the blame for the failure of Whitney and Peter’s relationship? Could their marriage have ever worked?

5. Consider the political conflicts present in LOSS OF INNOCENCE: The justification of the Vietnam War, the growing influence of minority voters, the changing roles of women in the home and workplace, and others. Which of these are still relevant today and to what extent? Are any of them still present but in a modified form?

6. At the beginning and end of the novel, we see a grown-up Whitney reflecting on how her life turned out. Do you think the grown-up rebellious youth of 1968 like Whitney can relate to the rebellious youth of today, or do they have as much trouble understanding the current twenty-something generation as their parents had understanding them?

7. Discuss Peter’s recollection of his father and Whitney’s subsequent musing over whether Peter should have chosen a career that allowed him to work with children. To what extent do Peter’s later actions overshadow the compassionate, selfless side he reveals in this scene?

8. Ben is the only major male character who does not succumb to the temptations of adultery. What is it about his personal constitution and the circumstances of his life that enables him to do this?

9. Most of the major characters in LOSS OF INNOCENCE have hidden lives that they keep hidden from the outside world in one way or another—Whitney dreams of a more independent life, Janine conceals her struggles with substance abuse and eating disorders from her family, Charles has affairs, etc. Based on the events in the novel, does it seem like it is ever a good thing to live this way, or should one always be completely frank and open with family?

10. Discuss the values of Anne Dane and the lives she envisions for her daughters. Is she a sympathetic character? Do her temperament and priorities help or harm her family?

Customer Reviews

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Loss of Innocence 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Several points: First, I was stunned by the high number of "typos!" I'd guess more than 20 of them. There is even a final one in the author's acknowledgement! But I certainly enjoyed the story. I'd forgotten the significance of the last name of the main character ("Blaine"). And I knew the author was a part-time resident of Martha's Vineyard. So it wasn't until his "Acknowledgement" that I realized that this book was actually the "precursor" of last year's book "Fall From Grace." How delightful!! So I immediately re-read last year's book and now look forward to the concluding book next year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1968 was a watershed year and the story of that summer told through the eyes of a young woman preparing for her September wedding is brilliant. To read this book is to relive a very important time in history.
MaryGramlich More than 1 year ago
The summer of 1968 was a time for turbulent change in men, women, and the world we all lived in.  High profile political assassinations, back door dealings, and the war no one wanted to fight for in Vietnam.  For Whitney the turmoil is all background noise at first as she prepares for the wedding of her lifetime and goes about conducting daily exploits in her privileged life. When Whitney comes upon Ben a man her age with so much more life experience the perfect path Whitney had chosen becomes riddled with pot holes.  Ben is recovering from the turmoil created when Bobby Kennedy was murdered and the fact that he is about to be deployed to war.  He is cynical about life, bitter about his past, and determined not to live the life that everyone expects.  All this resonates with Whitney as she has always been the good girl doing everything that is expected of her but thinking that there has to be more than being someone’s wife and mother.  Everyone warns Whitney that Ben is corrupting her way of thinking clearly including her fiancé but the realization that you are your own woman capable of making your own choices is not scary but liberating. For Whitney it is not Ben that forces her to see life through different eyes but her own family that is not the perfect home everyone thought it to be.  If her parent’s marriage is not the standard for her achievement perhaps it is time to find something else to go after and try to realize her own dreams which are attainable. Fabulous read about a time that seems so far away but one we are living over and over again.
Doc_Writer_101 More than 1 year ago
This was a well-written, well-crafted story. It was interesting throughout, but my comments are not about the story. The only flaw I saw in this book was the editing. There were a half-dozen spelling or word usage mistakes that were clearly the work of a computerized spell checker. There were others that simply got by the final proofreaders. This is not what I expected from Patterson. But ignore those and enjoy the wonderful story.
Meemo_B 11 months ago
When I received this book from Netgalley, I decided to read the first book in the trilogy (Fall from Grace) before reading this one. As it turns out, this is actually a prequel which can be read on its own (although there are bits that make more sense if you've read Fall from Grace). It's made clear in the first book (a murder mystery/thriller) that the victim, Ben Blaine, was a brilliant writer, but not much of a father or husband. Loss of Innocence takes us back to 1968, when Ben was a young man, and while told from the viewpoint of a young woman named Whitney Dane, we learn what shaped Ben into the writer, husband and father that he became. It turns out that Patterson was born about the same time that Whitney was, so was living through that point in time at about the same she was. And being just a bit younger I remember those times well, although as a high school student rather than a recent college graduate. He gives an excellent sense of the turmoil of that time, and it's interesting to see the parental units from Fall from Grace as young people trying to find their place in a rapidly changing world. A coming of age story, this is a departure from Patterson's usual thrillers, and left the mystery of how Ben died unanswered. I look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy to learn the answer. Thanks to Netgalley and Quercus Books for providing a copy for an unbiased review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well-written, captivating, but some of the family details are hard to follow; try to ignore the typos if you can.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this 1968 story of Martha Vineyard residents, politics, and a young woman of the wealthy class coming of age. I did not realize it was part of a triology (the 2nd). I would consider it a summer beach read. An easy read that holds your attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NookReaderLinda More than 1 year ago
I didn't realize this was the 2nd in a trilogy. The prologue was a bit confusing, wasn't sure who the characters were.. After reading the book, I went back and reread the prologue, which made more sense then. It was interesting reading about 1968 as I still remember that year well (the year I was married). I did like the characters of Whitney and Ben. I haven't read any of Patterson's previous novels. I might be more inclined to read his earlier ones. Don't think I will read the other 2 in this series.
HLMac64 More than 1 year ago
Not what I expected from Richard North Patterson, but I did enjoy it. I would have liked a little more out of the ending, but I still enjoyed the book just the same.
lindasue43 More than 1 year ago
Well written and evocative of the 60s. Patterson captured the confusion in gender and class roles during that turbulent time. I wish he had clarified the modern day characters as well as he did with the flashbacks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice well written story.  Enjoyed the Vineyard
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
good book and sequel good and another to come - a good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
not up to earlier standards. this is a woman's book. ioprefer his thrillers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JacksonvilleReader More than 1 year ago
I'm still uncertain about this latest book by RNP. I've read all his books and this one just doesn't seem like his style. After a few chapters I was tired of Whitney, her family and friends. I don't know why this book wasn't the first of the trilogy, introducing the characters for Fall From Grace". Just seems backwards. The main reason I'm undecided about the book is that the story was somewhat interesting, but not up to the type of books I've enjoyed by RNP. It was borderline trashy romance novel, not suspense, legal thrillers RNP has written in the past. I'll add RNP's books to the "buy when they hit the bargain table" list rather than when first published.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Super awsoe nivel with desedsedsedzedsedddefd vedswdrjdjddskskskskskssssskssisksdjddkksksddddkdkdkdkd