The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 1 July 2016


by Patricia Welles

When you were young, and you were ready to take the world by storm, how much consideration did you have for the folks around you? How much more dedicated were you to your dreams, your fantasies of your own future? But we were all young once. We were all confident and full of our own potential. We live in a time of individual potential perhaps unheard of in our history. Back in the 1960s, too, there was a surge of youthful optimism, the certainty that now, for us, there was great potential to change the world, or merely to live our personal fantasies.

So, here in this novel, first published in 1967, we meet young Sarah Green, seventeen years old, smart and ambitious. She is ready to grow up and get out of suburban Detroit, where her permissive parents just want her to be normal. But it's the freewheeling sixties, and Sarah is out to lose her virginity and move to New York to join the ferment of creativity and change going on there. But Sarah is mercurial, she is easily distracted by young men and her enjoyment of a good time. She is manipulative in service of her fantasies, and she falls through a series of misadventures that highlight her flightiness and lack of empathy for the men and women in her life. The book is packaged as a potboiler of free love and the new young revolution. It is more subtle than that, and has notes of a kind of yearn to escape we find in John Updike's Rabbit novels. But Sarah doesn't do much growing up in late sixties Detroit and, later, Cambridge. She doesn't know what she has and so keeps looking for something else. Her episodes are absurd and embarrassing, but not so stereotypical for the genre as one might expect from its cover. It doesn't quite deserve the obscurity that it now enjoys.

(The author, Patricia Welles has little internet presence today, beyond the handful of books she authored, including the novelization of the script for the classic movie Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.)

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