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Greenleaf Book Group
Service Provider
Flight of the Monarchs
When Jeremy Hill returns to his hometown of Pacific Grove, California, in the summer of 1967, the small town is gripped with curiosity. Having disappeared for eleven years following the tragic night he was found standing over his abusive father’s dead body, knife in hand, Jeremy sparks a rush of memories, longings, and regrets for Celia, his childhood best friend, and three of their early classmates. What follows is a summer of reconnections and self-discovery amid the cultural revolution of a changing America. Plagued with apprehension about his upcoming service in Vietnam and filled with resentments of the past, Jeremy pushes a smitten Celia away despite her many efforts to mend their broken bond. Fletcher battles with his own sexuality as he sees gay men assaulted and reviled. He must decide whether to face condemnation or go deeper into hiding. No matter which he chooses, though, he risks losing everyone he loves. Angie struggles to embrace the new wave of feminism while trying to support her family in the wake of her father’s betrayal. She delights in the sudden abundance of choices for young women, all of which tempt her to abandon her responsibilities. Moose dives headlong into the cultural revolution with sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, inspired to question all forms of traditional thought. From music festivals and psychedelic acid trips to San Francisco’s burgeoning queer movement, Flight of the Monarchs will transport you into the dreamlike haze of the famed Summer of Love.
Reardon’s intimate yet sweeping debut captures a moment, a milieu, and an ethos of change, as the class of 1964 in California’s Pacific Grove— a “Norman damned Rockwell”-looking place near Monterey”—faces the stripping away of the veneers of American life. It’s 1967, and the Pacific Grove cohort of Celia, now a college student, are jolted by the return of Jeremy, Celia’s one-time best friend, the boy notorious for killing, at age 11, his own abusive father. Traumatized Jeremy is in town to fix up and sell his dad’s house, securing a windfall for his mother before he enlists and heads to Vietnam, where he fully expects to die. But he might have found something to live for, as he and Celia enter a tense almost-romance.

Meanwhile, with friends Moose, Fletcher, Angie, and more, the pair get caught in the changing times, which Reardon captures with vivid detail and contextual precision, demonstrating that everyone knew what a big deal it was to go to the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival—but also why most of the cast, worn out from their interpersonal drama, sits out days two and three. Experiments with drugs, a trip to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, and impassioned debates about feminism, the war, and more are convincing and exciting, though the novel’s heart is in its multiple POV characters’ struggles to connect with each other and to understand themselves.

Jeremy and Celia’s story is touching and often frustrating, in that real-life way, as Jeremy fights against lowering his walls even in the face of Celia’s campaign of sunbathing and lemonade-offering. But perhaps this quite long novel’s most moving passages concern Fletcher, Celia’s current bestie, a young man who knows he’s gay, even though Celia can’t quite admit it. Reardon’s handling of Fletcher’s self discovery, and eventual liberation in San Francisco, is deft, right down to the embarrassed confusion, on all sides, when his friends spot him kissing another man. An accomplished, humane, engaging novel.

Takeaway: Humane, engaging novel of coming-of-age in the summer of love.

Comparable Titles: David T. Iassak’s A Map of the Edge, Emma Cline’s The Girls.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A