Author: Richard Barager
Publisher: Interloper Press (2011)
Binding: Paperback, 308 pages
What does the brutal battle of Khe Sanh and a violence-riddled rock festival in California in the late sixties have in common? A college student turned Marine named David Noble. The story opens with a young filmmaker researching the infamous rock concert that took place at the Altamont Speedway in 1969. Thirty years have passed, its 1999, and Caleb Levy is about to uncover a forgotten piece of history erased by time and circumstance. Caleb’s discovery will plunge the reader deep into the past, to a college campus in Minnesota where students are deeply embroiled, as is the rest of the country, in racial strife and the United States involvement in Vietnam.
Protagonist David Noble spent his childhood getting kicked around from one foster home to another. Tired of feeling anonymous, he falls in love with a beautiful but spoiled college coed named Jackie Lundquist. She makes David feel whole. But Jackie gets caught up in the antiwar movement on campus and is smitten with its ringleader, Kyle Levy, ironically a product of the privileged class. One day, in the middle of a protest, David up and joins the Marines. What follows is his journey to boot camp, Vietnam, and back to college.
David Noble’s last name is so fitting. Though he was not born into nobility, he carries the deeper meaning of the word with him, even to the end. Hours after finishing this book, I kept going back to reread whole passages. I kept trying to drink in more of the story because I didn’t want it to end. The characters come alive off the page the second you crack open the book. Even minor characters seem fully formed, even if they only appear for a brief moment.
"Altamont Augie" brought out every emotion in me, and I am still choked up as I write this. I highly recommend this novel for a wide audience.
Reviewed by: Kathy Rodgers (2012)