Literary Journeys along Paths Less Traveled
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West End Quartet
It is the heyday of student activism. The Reagan Revolution dominates America; Castro rules Cuba. The Sandinistas have a foothold in Nicaragua. In Manhattan, four university students—rebellious Kleio, emotional Mina, naïve Gwen, and arrogant, aristocratic Mal—reconfigure a grand West Side apartment into a feminist commune they call Group, to fight nuclear power and pontificate on all things radical. But when ideology turns violent, Group falls apart, and its members go their separate ways.
Thirty years later, Mal convinces Group to meet for a reunion in Greece. No longer idealists, each woman faces her own internal struggle. Kleio must balance the demands of single motherhood against the reality of a life-threatening illness. Newly widowed Mina wants to restart her life, but her daughter’s criminal activities make that difficult. Gwen, shaken by a doomed love affair, has reached the pinnacle of success in an academic career uncertain of what the future holds, whereas Mal’s decades of repressing her losses have not erased the damage they caused. She longs for healing. And what of the next generation, to whom Group’s ideals are bequeathed?
Through four interrelated narratives, West End Quartet explores what happens when women who set out to change the world find themselves changed instead.
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“The novellas that constitute West End Quartet collectively tell the story of four idealistic women who join together in 1980 to fight nuclear power and other destructive forces before going off in different directions to live out their lives. What’s striking here is not so much the concept as the author’s ability to devise plot nuances that are both unique and intimate and to acquaint us with characters that are every bit as alive and intriguing as any of the real people in our lives. The combination makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking reading experience, along the lines of Jane Smiley or Louise Erdrich.”
—Joan Schweighardt, author of The Last Wife of Attila the Hun,
The Accidental Art Thief, and other novels
“Taken together, these poignant, complex stories create a redeeming vision of love, loss, remembrance, and friendship. The nuanced plot of this wonderful book flows naturally from the plight and inner life of each finely wrought character. The characters in this work, both adults and children, will live on in the reader’s mind long after the back cover is closed. I usually have a favorite. In this case there were just too many good choices.”
—Rocco Lo Bosco, author of Ninety Nine and Buddha Wept
“Overall, I would say that I enjoyed this book. I loved the idea of the feminist commune, and the fact that 1980s America was so obsessed with the problem of ‘radicalism’ made me smile, and it makes me laugh how Americans saw feminism as a radical, dangerous idea.”
—Not-So-Modern Girl, book review blogger