An Unfinished Season
By Ward Just
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618036691, 256pp.)
Publication Date: July 1, 2004
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"The winter of the year my father carried a gun for his own protection was the coldest on record in Chicago." So begins Ward Just's An Unfinished Season, the winter in question a postwar moment of the 1950s when the modern world lay just over the horizon, a time of rabid anticommunism, worker unrest, and government corruption. Even the small-town family could not escape the nationwide suspicion and dread of "the enemy within." In rural Quarterday, on the margins of Chicago's North Shore, nineteen-year-old Wilson Ravan watches as his father's life unravels. Teddy Ravan -- gruff, unapproachable, secure in his knowledge of the world -- is confronting a strike and even death threats from union members who work at his printing business. Wilson, in the summer before college, finds himself straddling three worlds when he takes a job at a newspaper: the newsroom where working-class reporters find class struggle at the heart of every issue, the glittering North Shore debutante parties where he spends his nights, and the growing cold war between his parents at home. These worlds collide when he falls in love with the headstrong daughter of a renowned psychiatrist with a frightful past in World War II. Tragedy strikes her family, and the revelation of secrets calls into question everything Wilson once believed.
From a distinguished chronicler of American social history and the political world, An Unfinished Season is a brilliant exploration of culture, politics, and the individual conscience.
Ward Just is the author of fourteen previous novels, including the National book Award finalist Echo House and An Unfinished Season, winner of the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Award. In a career that began as a war correspondent for Newsweek and the Washington Post, Just has lived and written in half a dozen countries, including Britain, France, and Vietnam. His characters often lead public lives as politicians, civil servants, soldiers, artists, and writers. It is the tension between public duty and private conscience that animates much of his fiction, including Forgetfulness. Just and his wife, Sarah Catchpole, divide their time between Martha’s Vineyard and Paris.