Richard Johnson is a black veteran, back from Vietnam and trying to rebuild his life by attending college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He's smart and handsome, yet haunted by memories that plague his sleep and send him flying for cover at sudden noises.
Kathy Woodbridge is a white student in one of Richard's classes. She's pretty, idealistic, and drawn irresistibly to Richard's combination of charm and aliveness. It leads her into a relationship different from any she had expected -- and to a tragedy greater than any she can face.
Lacey Greer is a secretary in San Pedro, California. When Kathy shows up at her office and is hired with no record of her past, Lacey wonders what Kathy could be running from. She's determined to find out, and to help if she can.
Set in the early seventies, "Pacific Avenue" explores themes of love, belonging, helpfulness, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, interracial marriage, and healing from the trauma of war.
Anne L. Watson, a retired historic preservation architecture consultant, is the author of numerous novels, plus books on such diverse subjects as soapmaking and baking with cookie molds. Anne has lived at various times in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and San Pedro, California, the settings of "Pacific Avenue." She currently lives in Friday Harbor, Washington, in the San Juan Islands, with her husband and fellow author, Aaron Shepard.
I chose a window seat on the Greyhound, but I didn't look out. For almost the whole trip, I stared at the rough tan upholstery of the seat in front of me. It had a rip on one side and three dark stains.
A woman settled into the aisle seat. She raised her footrest, but it clunked back down. When I glanced her way, she caught my eye and smiled.
"How do you make these things stay put?" she asked.
I meant to answer -- the words were lined up in my mind. But before I could say them, they slipped apart like beads when the string breaks. I gave up and studied the seat cover again. Still tan, still ripped, still stained. The next time I looked, the woman was gone.
Evening came, but I didn't use my reading light. Late at night, awake in the breathing dark, I imagined running my fingers over the seat back, erasing the stains, mending the seam. In the morning, I almost believed I could fix it. So, I took care not to touch it, not to find out for sure.
In the afternoon, the bus left the freeway and crept through downtown traffic. I turned then, and peered through the mud-spattered window. As far as I could see, Los Angeles was a city of warehouses. I sank back into my seat.
When we reached the station, I claimed my suitcase and dragged it through the waiting room to the street. Outside I found blank walls and empty sidewalks. No direction and no one to ask.
Well, I ran away from college, then from New Orleans, and then Baton Rouge. Is it too soon to run away from here?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Although told within the first-person accounts of two women who live in San Pedro, California, the bulk of the story takes place in Louisiana. In 1974, a young white woman, Kathy, arrives by bus in California with little money, no friends, and no hope. She takes a secretarial job at a small construction company and, unknown to her, piques the curiosity of the other secretary, a middle-aged black woman, Lacey, whose own daughter has just left for college. The story is told in first-person by both women in the present (1974) and by Kathy in recollections of the past two years. She is obviously running from the memory of something, and the tension grips the reader early. Slowly Lacey's discoveries and Kathy's memories come together to give the reader the solution, and it is worth the wait. Until the middle of the book I was thinking this would be a 4 star effort, but then it got bogged down in too much everyday detail of the situation in the past. The detail could actually be interesting, but it feels out of place in the middle of a suspense novel. However, the question of what exactly happened finally starts to be clear, and many loose ends are cleared up. Recommended, but you'll probably skim the middle as I did.
I enjoyed this book. Touches on racism and PTSD before that term was coined.
I found this book to be captivating. Pacific Avenue is so raw in its emotions, it was as if the author was writing her own story. I had to keep reminding my self this was a piece of fiction. It is not a predictable story in any way. Each new page captures you and leads you to the next. I had to keep reminding myself this was a fiction. It is not a predictable story in anyway. Each new page capture you and leads you to the next page. This book has some scarred figures and will take you on an emotional ride. Richard, the young African American college student, just back from Viet Nam. He is estranged from his family, and his nights are filled with the horrors he experience during the war. Even during the days he is haunted. Kathy, is a young white college student whom her mother never liked. Kathy never could measure up to her mother's standards. She was taught that it did not matter what th color of a person's skin was. She begins a relationship with Richard and invites him to dinner at her parents house. Her mother did not seem pleased, but her father accepted him. To her mother racism becomes prevalent. They continue to date and eventually become lovers. Kathy invites Richard to share in her family Thanksgiing dinner. Everything was fine until Richard hears a loud crash from the window shutters. He automatically dives under the dinner table,the food that was there falls to to the floor as well. Kathy's mother is appaled by his behavior. While Richard is trying to clean up his clothes, it is her sister's finance Sam, that comes to Richards defense, and tris to make family members understand Richard's behavior. This book shows us the dynamics of a generation that is just beginning to step out of the mold that has plagued both black and whites in this nation. It is a story of love that two people share. One black and one white. Kathy and Richard quit school, and leave from Baton Rouge to New Orlens. They are hoping that there they will be accepted as a couple. For a short perioe life is great. They had the freedom they had sought. They have made new friends and found new jobs. Life was hard but they were making it together. Yet it was also the beginning of Richard's descent. It becomes hard for him to tell reality from his days in Viet Nam. Eventually, they part, but not for reasons anyone who is reading this may thing. It is where they find true tragedy. Kathy jumps on the first bus leaving. She is running away from her past, and the events that have destroyed her world. She arrives in San Pedro, California not knowing what she will do. She is a young woman who is mourning her loss. Her pain will not go away, and she does not know how to pick up the pieces and begin a new life. How she does it is her story, the story of Pacific Avenue. The author has sought to entertain you and to keep your attention focus on the book. She has done so untl the last page. Five stars Anne as this book is an excellent read for all.