Friday, January 28, 2011

Radical Chic

If you're of a certain age you may remember the Weather Underground, a radical group founded in the late Sixties which used bombings to protest the war in Viet Nam and to disrupt government operations. You may even remember when a Greenwich Village townhouse the group was using as a safe house exploded when a nail bomb they were making detonated prematurely.

What if a group like this still existed, intent on protesting the increasing power of multinational corporations by non-lethal bombings? That's the premise of David Goodwillie's American Subversive. The story is told in chapters with the alternating points of view of the two main characters. And they are an unlikely pair. Aidan Cole is a thirty-something journalism school dropout who makes a meager living by snarkily blogging about the media and living the hipster life in the West Village. He goes to all the right parties and bars, has a sometimes girlfriend who writes a column about relationships for the New York Times, but he seems to be tiring of his own cynicism.

Paige Roderick, despite her preppy-sounding name, grew up in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, but was radicalized by the death of her brother in Iraq. Her fearlessness and commitment bring her to the attention of the charismatic leader of an underground group attempting to draw America's attention by the use of strategically placed bombs.

Their lives intersect when Aidan receives an anonymous e-mail which contains a photo of the beautiful Paige and identifies her as the perpetrator of the latest bombing, at the Barney's building in Manhattan. The first chapter of the book has revealed that Aidan is in hiding in a safe house, so the bulk of the story is told in flashback as the two characters alternately describe the events that led them to each other and their fates.

This book is a sort of strange mix of literary thriller, with hints of Bret Easton Ellis, and a slightly sappy tale of a couple that 'meets cute'. Maybe it was because I was always fascinated by Sixties radicals, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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1 comment:

  1. Nice review, good writing. I want to read this book.