REVIEW:  Class of ’68 by Michael Murphy

REVIEW: Class of ’68 by Michael Murphy

Dear Mr Murphy,

big_murphy-c68.jpgI didn’t graduate from high school until long after 1968 but I remember a little of what was going on then. I’ve found myself reading more and more about Vietnam though it’s usually accounts written by military personnel who served there. Your book shows me a little more of what was going on in this country and how it impacted the lives of the generation ahead of me.

Kevin Cooper’s high school senior year plans of sex, drugs and rock and roll are shattered by the arrival of his brother Tim’s first letter from Vietnam. In Vietnam, Tim struggles to survive and to forget his love for anti-war activist Sarah Johnson. The three people’s lives, and the lives of their families are forever changed by war, student unrest and political assassination.

First let me say the sections from Vietnam are riveting, intense and well done (even if understandly very violent). Those parts of the book made me think of and go back and watch a fantastic DVD called “Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam.” The way Tim wouldn’t tell his parents the full horror of what he was dealing with while at the same time trying to let his brother know how combat was affecting him sounded straight out of some of the letters featured in it. How Tim slowly sunk into the 1000 mile stare Kevin saw in the one picture Tim sent home and how Tim and Jesse came to depend on each other is perfectly captured.

The parts featuring Kevin, Byron and Billie are good, especially about high school and Kevin and Billie’s budding relationship. I felt the “guy” kidding between Byron and Kevin is great. You handled Billie’s maturation into a young woman quite well and I had to laugh at Kevin suddenly changing from just Byron’s friend into a suitor who has to pass her father’s inspection before being allowd to take her out on dates.

The bits with Sarah initially felt awkward but smoothed out later on or maybe I just got used to your style. And the information about dodging the draft was fascinating. Sarah comes across as a bit of a naive do-gooder but maybe this is just me looking back with post-Watergate cynicism. I guess it’s just hard for me today to get excited about any politician and that’s a sad thing for America.

Though I’m too young to remember much about the events of 1968, I do remember the nightly counts delivered by Walter Cronkite and Roger Mudd on the CBS Evening News and the growing unease in the country. Thanks for showing me more of what was going on then and how it affected the whole country.


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