An Unfinished Season

This is Ward Just’s 14th novel, and it again confirms his place as one of America’s best fiction writers. Told in the first person, it’s set in Chicago and along its tony North Shore during the Cold War years of the 1950s. It begins with a great line: “The winter of the year my father carried a gun for his own protection was the coldest on record in Chicago.” The image suggests the mystery that lurks everywhere in this tale of 19-year-old Wils Raven, a bright but naïve boy who’s separating from his parents even as he tries to understand them. By day he’s a copy boy at a Chicago newspaper getting a dose of reality; by night he’s attending fancy debutante parties. At one of them he meets the brilliant daughter of a psychiatrist with a mysterious past, and she becomes his first love—and the first person to show him how little he really knows. The novel’s suggestive of The Great Gatsby—and doesn’t suffer from the comparison.