cover image Dear Ann

Dear Ann

Bobbie Ann Mason. Harper, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-298665-8

Reality and fantasy clash in the flawed latest from Mason (after In Country). Ann Workman is on a Caribbean cruise when she begins reflecting on her decision 50 years earlier to go to graduate school at Harpur College in upstate New York instead of Stanford. While reading old letters advising her to go to Stanford from her former lover, Albert, Ann fantasizes an alternate life in Palo Alto alongside Vietnam protestors and psychedelic artists; interwoven are Ann’s own memories of historical events—mainly the escalation of the Vietnam War and the cultural shifts of the late ’60s—and her reimagining of what her relationship with Jimmy, a boyfriend who joined the military and fought in the Vietnam War, would have been like in progressive Palo Alto. The characters, however, suffer from a lack of emotional depth, and Ann, Albert, and Jimmy come across as stand-ins for stereotypes of the era—the undecided idealist, the hippie, and the patriot. The time-jumping setup, meanwhile, is clunkily handled. This convoluted tale will leave many readers feeling as if they’ve missed a crucial piece of the story. (Sept.)