Genre: Literary Fiction/Mystery
A story of life, love, and a journey of a thousand years…
2013 Winner Independent Publisher Book Awards (bronze medal) for best eBook fiction.
It was Monday, May 19th, 1975. I’ll never forget that day. The Vietnam War had ended with the fall of Saigon that April, and the world was mired in one of its worst recessions ever. Unemployment in the United States was nearly nine percent, inflation even higher, and leadership lacking. The Watergate scandal had cast a smear across American politics, resulting in Richard Nixon’s resignation in August 1974 to avoid impeachment, and his successor’s immediately pardoning him to close the book on an unhappy chapter in U.S. history.
It was not a good time for anyone and a particularly hard time for the old Victorian town of Cape May. The crown jewel of the New Jersey shore had fallen into neglect and disrepair and was dying a slow death. Once the elegant summer home to presidents and kings, it had become the last refuge of the deposed.
That’s where I met Tom Ryan. Tom was a king, or so he would have you believe, but unlike Richard Nixon, when Tom was dethroned, he wasn’t sent home with a slap on the wrist. He was sent to prison. He was a convicted draft dodger, but one of the lucky ones released early by President Ford as part of his mass clemency after Nixon’s pardon. The problem was, Tom had nowhere to go when he got out, so he took the money his dad mailed to him and spent it on a bus ticket to get as far away as possible to a place where nobody cared who he was or what he had done, a place where nobody cared about anything. That place was Cape May.
As hard a time as it was for everyone, it was harder for me because that was the day I met Tom Ryan. I should have turned and walked away. I knew it when he first looked at me, but I didn’t, not my first mistake, but one that would make Monday, May 19th, 1975 the hardest day of my life.
This is the story of how Tom Ryan and I met and how things never quite work out the way you think. You might find a love story in here somewhere. You might not. You might find a message hidden in one of the nickel pop bottles collected by the beachcombers from some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world. You might even find a little mystery, but life is a mystery, isn’t it?
Reviews from Amazon.com
5 stars A diamond, indeed
A gem of a Jersey shore town co-stars in a story of a damaged fellow trying to forget a serious mistake by burying himself in menial work and of the novice policewoman who sees character and hope in him despite his wisecracking veneer. A love story settles itself within a mystery involving corruption and deceit, and memorable characters tug at your heartstrings. There is an earnest, helpful young woman who amazes with her seeming ability to vanish, a doctor with a heart of gold and ambitious friends, a hard-bitten cop with an appetite for steak, an older couple ekeing out a living in a luncheonette, a priest who marvels at sacrifice, a widow with indomitable hope and cheer who trolls the beach for diamonds of polished glass. Find your own diamond: read this book!
5 stars This book's a diamond
Tom Ryan is sullen, clever, a bit nasty at times, but still looking for a positive, uplifting way to fit within his own skin. Emotionally, he's been through a lot - witness his exploits in Four Years From Home, a quiet precursor that roars to a startling, but sad, finish. Thankfully there's more.
Part two of this mini-epic takes place in the sleepy remains of Cape May, New Jersey. A beachfront resort never-wannabee, it was meant for the geriatric set to reminisce: simpler lives retold in morning conversations at the nearby diner. Everyone knew everyone's tales.
Except Tom's. His was an enigma, as he played second string cook and bottle washer for his aunt and uncle's eatery, and lived in one tight but adequate room in their home around the corner. Some particularly nasty individuals invade his hideaway. So do two ladies, one, part of a mystery, one, part of a love story.
To tell more is to give it away, and this yarn is about discovery. Suffice it to say that I cared about Tom as the pages progressed, and was glad for the author's ultimate beneficence. [Okay, that's a bit of a spoiler.]
Larry Enright's verbal paintbrush is amazing. His sleepy village of Cape May mirrors my memories of its peace and quiet for those in need: sand lined sidewalks shaded by old broad leafs, subtle sounds of animals and passing cars, plus an occasional porch swing squeak.
I was also amazed by Tom Ryan's vivid character. Thru the despair engendered by his failures, his constant wisecracks spoke of an individual still claiming a right to oxygen on this planet...and, as the challenges unfolded, a chance to do better.
Sometimes the snappy comebacks didn't even make it to his mouth. On seeing that his recently deceased neighbor's house was being readied for listing, he asked the sign installer if it was being put up for sale. The cranky man with the mallet yelled, "How the hell should I know? They pay me to put up signs and take `em down. That's it."
Tom mused, "His pay apparently didn't include reading them well, but to the guy's credit, the sign didn't actually have the words `For Sale' on it, though there were 2 hooks underneath to hang a smaller shingle which could have said, `For Sale' or `Under Contract' or `How the hell should I know?'"
The warmth and love in the scenes that capped this journey left my eyes a bit watery, but I realized that for me, Tom was an individual who would last - in literary space - well past page 350. What's next? That's up to Larry. But whatever he creates for Tom, I want to read it.