cover image The Great Far Away

The Great Far Away

Joan Frank, . . Permanent, $26 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-57962-148-3

Frank's second novel, a compact, bittersweet tale capturing the \t\t essence of carefree youth and lost innocence, watches two young couples grow as \t\t their once-idyllic northern California town succumbs to the era of shopping \t\t malls. An old letter inspires Annie Freed to reminiscence of how she'd joined a \t\t clan of young adults in "sweet, open-ended" 1970s Ferris, Calif., a "sleepy \t\t town" that "still thought the year was somewhere around 1952." Two couples, \t\t Randy and Alma Winslow and Graham and Darla Payne, are the major players, and \t\t everyone has a great time until the early '80s, when the couples have babies \t\t and Ferris begins growing suburban and commercial. Fatherhood particularly \t\t traumatizes Graham, and marital discord racks the two couples. Frank's prose \t\t style remains deft, and she creates secondary characters as vibrant as the \t\t laid-back town that transforms into a suffocating suburb like a "spreading \t\t amoeba." The droll and wistful Annie provides a satisfying backward glance \t\t without becoming too nostalgic or sentimental. (Mar.)