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This week my newest novel releases. It’s
called What Follows After. The
backdrop of the story is the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962. But that’s
not what it’s about. I had a lot of fun researching this book, read and watched
everything I could about life in the US during the late 50s and early 60s. I
was alive then but only 5 years old. Being reminded about the way things were
“back then” was, for the most part, wonderfully refreshing.
Here’s how we set the stage for the back of the book:
In 1962, life was
simple, the world made sense, and all families were happy. And when they
weren’t, everyone knew you were supposed to pretend. For the past year, Scott
and Gina Harrison have been living a lie. While they show up at family
get-togethers in the same car, they’ve actually been separated for over a year.
To keep up the charade, they’ve even instructed their sons, Colt and Timmy, to
lie—to their grandparents, their teachers, and their friends. Colt, for one,
has had enough, so he hatches a plan. He and his little brother will run away
from their Florida home, head for their aunt’s house in Savannah, Georgia, and
refuse to come home until their parents get back together. But when things go
terribly, terribly wrong, Scott and Gina must come to grips with years of
neglect and mistrust in order to recover their beloved sons, their love for one
another, and their marriage.
Most of my research of the “Leave it to Beaver
years” reinforced what I remember as a child. I was talking with my wife
recently, after watching yet another bizarre event on the news. I said if you took someone from back then
and instantly brought them forward in time to today, they’d never believe things could
ever get this bad. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of a bad
I think it’s fair to say, in the last 50 years things have changed dramatically
in several fundamental ways. Notwithstanding the host of wonderful new gizmos technology has given us, and some of the amazing medical
breakthroughs we’ve seen, I’d say many of these changes have made things worse. It’s not just me. I’ve talked with many other people my age or older, who feel the same way.
And I don’t think this observation is
merely a case of subjective opinions (read – old people complaining). Many
surveys and national statistics on topics such as violent crime, divorce, child
abuse, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, support the contention that the
social fabric of life in the US is on a downward spiral. Thing are deteriorating not improving.
Having said that, my researched forced
me to consider another observation about life back then. It wasn’t such a golden era if you were part of a minority or a woman.
The civil rights movement that exploded in the 60s did so precisely because
blacks were treated so poorly and unfairly, and had been for so long. Women
also were treated badly: sexually harassed at work, unable to get many jobs
they were capable and qualified to do, often paid much less than men doing the
same things. And housewives were often treated as second-class citizens, not
just by society but by their own husbands.
The changes we’ve seen in these areas
were critical and necessary. I don’t think any reasonable person would want to
return to the good old days, if it meant a return to these social abuses. But
it has made me wonder…can we really call a solution a solution if it spawns a host of new problems we didn’t expect? Some which are arguably even worse than the problems we set out to solve?
What do you think, was life in America
really better back then? What could we have done differently in the way we
tried to fix the broken things, or do differently now to repair the unintended
consequences? Is it even possible to fix things anymore or are they broken beyond repair?
If you’d like something lighter to dwell on, forget these heavy questions and (if you’re old enough), tell me some of the favorite things you remember about “back then.”