North Star Press
Ms. Hen decided to read this novel because she heard the author read from it, and was intrigued by the story of a young man who falls in love with his friend’s wife. She didn’t know that the title, CINNAMON GIRL, is the name of a Neil Young song. Ms. Hen is not a big Neil Young fan, but she listened to the song, and it makes her think of the summertime haze of years past.
This novel is about nineteen year old John Meyer, during the late Sixties, who meets Tony, then his wife Claire, and their son Jonah, and becomes friends with them. John is smitten with Claire at first sight, even though she is married. They hang out in their apartment, smoke pot and get to know each other over a few months.
John is caught stealing an 89-cent book from the college bookstore. He has a hearing and is sentenced to community service. He doesn’t get along well with his family: his father and he differ on political issues, such as Vietnam. They have a generation gap, the father thinks that he knows more about the way things are in the world than the son, but the son understands that everything is changing, and wants to have a say about the way the world is going to be.
Eventually John moves in with his friends, Tony and Claire, and another man, Jonathan. The group drinks a lot and smokes a lot of pot during the first few months they lived together. But the Kent State murder happens. And everything changes for John. He decides that he wants to get involved with the student strike at his college, and helped organize the protest, and led discussion groups about the war in Vietnam. John’s relationship with Claire comes to life when the strike is happening; two worlds come crashing together. He doesn’t want to get arrested again, because he is still on parole, so he is careful.
Ms. Hen admired the characters in this novel. It seems to her as if the youth in the 1960s had conviction, that they wanted to change things, and they were mad as hell that they didn’t have control of their own destinies, such as the draft. Ms. Hen wishes that young people, and everyone today would be as angry and provoked as the people in the Sixties. She thinks that the tipping point has come in this country, and everyone with intelligence is going to start making waves again, and doing things to make the world a better place.
Ms. Hen thinks that right now is a perfect time to read a novel like this, one that’s about fighting the people in power, and trying to make our voices heard. The hippies in the Sixties had great ideas, but they didn’t take their ideas far enough. Ms. Hen wants to take her ideas farther than any hen has.
Ms. Hen found a couple of chickens in this novel. John and Claire make dinner together, “…stood at her elbow as we fried chicken, tossed salad, and mashed potatoes, sat across from her at the table, so I could stare into her deep green eyes while we ate.” Also when Claire gets angry at John, “ ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it. You puff up your chest like a rooster. You really think you’re the cock of the walk since you fucked me, don’t you?’” Ms. Hen admires Claire for saying what she feels.
Ms. Hen enjoyed this novel. She was engrossed by the story of a man living in a different time, but with the same kind of problems that all young people face. Ms. Hen couldn’t help but think that the Sixties were a raucous age, when nobody knew what the future held, but we never know what will come. We still live in a precarious era, but Ms. Hen thinks the world will survive, or she at least hopes it will.