What It Was Like: A Novel of Love and Consequence. Peter Seth. The Story Plant. September 2014. 464 pp. ISBN#: 9781611881905.
A nameless high school graduate has his future all lined up. He’s going to work in a summer camp and planning to begin student life at Columbia University. Obviously, he’s a bright guy who’s just wanting to earn some money for his college days in the fall of 1968. However, It should be noted that he’s (nameless throughout the entire story) writing this from jail and so we realize it’s really an account of his memories, flashbacks and reflections on the pivotal days that landed him where he is now.
Falling in love very quickly with Rachel Prince, a relative of the owner of the summer camp where the narrator is working, the narrator will do anything, anywhere, anytime to be with her. She’s very attractive and carries a spark of energy the narrator refers to as “musical.” It also turns out she’s rather mercurial with her temper, one minute delightfully endearing and mesmerizing and the next sharp-tongued and/or tough. She is between a counselor and camp member, and there are very strict rules for this in-between position. However, she’s very good at her job and the camp kids love her. It also turns out that Rachel is very ticked off because she was supposed to take a “teen tour” of Europe, a bucket list goal that got trashed when her parents announced they were getting divorced.
The story gets a bit draggy midway through the book and yet somehow even though they are repetitive scenes, there’s enough rebellion and breaking of rules, as well as sexual dalliance, to keep the reader flipping the pages.
All of a sudden (no spoilers here), the danger heightens and rapidly escalates to the point of two scenarios the reader cannot ever envision while reading those previously pages that are hot only with passion, albeit threaded through with quite a bit of obsession.
In the beginning of their relationship, the narrator senses there is something “dangerous” about Rachel and later some conversations about what her “therapist” and family says drop more hints but nothing further.
This is no Love Story with a gushy, maudlin ending. It’s passionate, stark, haunted fiction that nails it on the head about young adult romance gone awry. It’s also about the naive hormonal dominance that goes into total denial about some rather obvious “warning” signals beyond the physical attraction both so deeply embrace! Nicely done, indeed, Peter Seth! Keep writing!