cover image The Age of Consent

The Age of Consent

Geoffrey Wolff / Author Knopf Publishing Group $22 (226p) ISBN

The sins of parents are visited on their children in this superb new novel by the author of The Final Club and the nonfiction The Duke of Deception. This is a stinging social and cultural portrait of a time, a place and a generation whose highflown ideals masked a weak moral fiber. The idyllic community of Blackberry Mountain in the New York Adirondacks was founded in the 1960s by charismatic Doc Halliday, who then lured other counterculture refugees from middle-class conformity. Among those who followed him were Ann and Jinx Jenks and their children Maisie and Ted. Jinx and Doc were roommates at Columbia, and three decades later Jinx is still mesmerized by his friend's easy bonhomie and reckless enthusiasm; Jinx is Doc's echo, henchman, puppet. Doc, a merry prankster whose can-do attitude always exceeds his unabashed failure to follow through, retains the Jenks family's slavish devotion and their cooperation in his pie-in-the-sky projects; he serves as avuncular mentor to Maisie and Ted, who adore him. When Maisie-a beautiful, plucky, irreverent 15-year-old-hurls herself from a high rock into a shallow pool one Independence Day, the facade of her family's happiness is irreparably damaged. For, as we gradually learn, the monstrously egotistic Doc is an amoral debaucher of young women, and Maisie is not his only victim. Among the satisfactions of this impeccably fashioned narrative is Wolff's skill at conveying the nuances of small-town life in a purportedly close-knit community in which some people will always be considered outsiders by the natives. Wolff engages thorny issues within a terse but dramatic narrative framework, utilizing a fine-tuned irony in the service of character development. While he is writing about the death of dreams, he provides a satisfying ending that is a healthy antidote to much current fiction in which cynicism triumphs over faith and moral turpitude over justice. Author tour. (Feb.)