cover image The Dakota Winters

The Dakota Winters

Tom Barbash. Ecco, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-225819-9

Barbash’s spirited latest revolves around a family that lives in the Dakota, the Upper West Side apartment building where Rosemary’s Baby was set and outside of which John Lennon was assassinated. Here, in 1980, 23-year-old Anton Winter is just back from a stint with the Peace Corps in Africa, where he contracted malaria. While recovering, he works for Teddy Kennedy’s presidential campaign (Anton’s mother is friends with Teddy’s wife); goes sailing with his neighbor, John Lennon; gets a job as a busboy at a restaurant in Central Park; romances an English journalist; and—most importantly—helps his father, Buddy Winter, a famous TV talk show host (think Dick Cavett) who had a nervous breakdown two years ago and walked off his show, attempt a comeback. Barbash (The Last Good Chance) seamlessly mixes real-life celebrities into his fictitious narrative. All the backstage show business details ring true, as do the author’s exhaustingly encyclopedic cultural references for 1980. Though the central relationship between Anton and his father barely strikes any sparks, the book is packed with diverting anecdotes and a beguiling cast, making for an immensely entertaining novel. [em](Dec.) [/em]