Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

This is a quiet, meandering autobiographical novel that takes place in Sag Harbor, New York, the African American answer to the Hampsteads. The main character is a 15 year old skinny and awkward young man, Benji, who, along with his younger brother, Reggie, pretty much have the run of their parent's summer home for much of the season.

During the school year, Benji attends an elite New York City prep school where very few of his fellow students are black, adding to his social unease. Needless to say, he looks forward to his summers in Sag Harbor, where he has a history, a sense of belonging and a group of close friends that he has spent every summer with for as long as he can remember. The boys encounter the usual coming of age issues: girls; summer job; and, jockeying for position within their group.

If you are looking for a book with lots of drama or plot, you may want to skip this one; the book saunters along quite like the summers of our youth. The references to pop culture (the novel takes place in the 1980's) are priceless to anyone who was also coming of age during this era. Whitehead's sense of place and time, as well as his lovely prose and keen observations made this an enjoyable, if slow, read.

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