A Place We Knew Well: A Novel. Carol McCarthy. Random House Publishing Group. September 2015. 272 pp. ISBN#: 9780804176545.
Wes Avery is the owner of a Texaco gas station, happily married to Sarah and father to Charlotte. Life has been moving along nicely, when Wes and his neighbors notice fighter jets flying overhead in massive groups along one of Florida’s busiest highways. The military air traffic is much busier than normally occurs and then President John F. Kennedy announces that Cuba has nuclear missiles provided by Russia. He is demanding their removal. Avery’s assistant is a Cuban exile who is very upset by the ramped-up crisis situation as his mother is in the precise area where these missiles are located.
Charlotte is a typical teenager obsessed with friends and an upcoming dance for which she has no date. When she accepts an offer from Avery’s assistant, her mother Sarah is completely undone. She becomes obsessed with their home-made air raid shelter and is clearly mentally unraveling.
Here is the simple yet complex plot evolving in miniscule stages. Russian ships approach Cuba with more nuclear arms. Attempts are being made to negotiate a treaty with Turkey involved, promising equal removal of military arms that could destroy the world in seconds.
The Avery family has its own secret that will threaten to be as devastating. Avery’s former military experience knows more than the average Floridian that the increasing military build-up in Florida presages war-status action.
By the time the chaos comes to the very brink of attack, the Avery family has completely come undone.
A Place We Knew Well is a realistic account of the Cuban crisis that swept across America and Europe that is perfectly plotted, revealing the doubt, fear, anxiety, and psychic inability to cope that occurred in a very short time. It was the first time that the existence of nuclear arms went beyond a contest of “Who’s got more toys?” to “This is for real, folks.”
Nicely crafted fiction about all-too-real turmoil in American history, Carol McCarthy!