Drift--Victoria Patterson

Drift is a collection of 13 interconnected short stories about the lives of the have-nots, the almost-haves, and the once-hads in Newport Beach, California.  When I first saw notices of it, I thought, "Oh dear, Peyton Place visits California."  But boy was I wrong.  Another case of don't trust the notices.  I picked the book up and I was entranced--immediately and completely.  Victoria Patterson has considerable talent and she has created a world akin to that of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio--complete with grotesques and self-doubting narrator/central figures.  But no one escapes from Newport Beach.  If you want a real sense of this book think Winesburg, Ohio meets Cannery Row. Victoria Patterson is a powerhouse of a writing, creating compelling and engaging characters and weaving story lines in and out of time to show us the lives of those who are often invisible to us.

The stories are not connected chronologically and they all seem to center around a cluster of characters--Rosie, John Wayne (not the movie start) Kat, and B all figure prominently having whole stories or large parts of stories dedicated to piecing together images of their lives.  Of these, most prominent is probably Rosie.  She appears in, narrates, or dominates 6 or 7 of these stories.

Newport Beach is, apparently, a very upscale neighborhood in California. We get to learn about those who live in the shadows--the waitresses, the drug addicts, the loco, the discarded.  Each story focuses on one or more people who have been estranged from themselves, from their families, from society at large.  And many of the stories feature a sort of redemption, a way each character finds to live with who they are and what they are within the society as a whole.

Really, all I can say to you is get the book.  You won't regret it.  Ms. Patterson writes with deep compassion for her characters and she brings you in touch with each of them, rounding out even the background characters as the stories march on.  By the time you finish the book, you have a picture of the servant class and a picture of the wealthy that is, on the whole, balanced, reflective, and results in a book length meditation of class and identity in America today.

****1/2--Highly recommended.


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