In her third novel, America Was Hard to Find, Kathleen Alcott writes with pulsating, intense prose, delivering an account of how lives can be meshed and torn apart, tangled and devoured by each other and by the times in which they play out.
For almost three years in the late 1950s, Fay and Vincent are diversions for each other in a carefree affair. His life is regimented and delineated by the Navy and aeronautics and underlined by a miserable marriage. Her life is free and clear of any ties to the American wealth into which she was born or the rules on which her parents insisted.
Nine years later in Ecuador, Fay and her son, Wright, do not watch as Vincent becomes the first man to walk on the moon. Fay has joined Shelter, a violent, underground activist group protesting the Vietnam War. The same group, along with many Americans, believes that the space program was created by the government to divert attention away from wide-sweeping poverty in the U.S. and war crimes in Vietnam.
Vincent retreats into solitude after his exploits; no more programs, calculations and problem-solving. Fay’s focus becomes more violent as she finds herself the leader of Shelter and a woman on the FBI’s most wanted list. Wright, on the cusp of manhood, grows more disheartened by his mother’s chosen lifestyle and soon finds himself alone to face her mistakes and determine how he feels about himself and his country.
The voices of Fay, Vincent and Wright are marvelously crystal-clear, their thoughts are sometimes believably jumbled, and their actions are often self-destructive. Alcott has a powerful ability to separate these three characters into equal and opposing forces whose stories collide for 31 years. Her extensive research into the Apollo program, the Weatherman underground protest group and the AIDS crisis in America serve her well as she intertwines facts with fiction.
America Was Hard to Find leaves readers wanting more of this story and everything else Alcott has written.