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The Company You Keep Hardcover – June 30, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (June 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670032182
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670032181
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,487,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The revolutionary politics of the 1960s haunt the complacent domesticity of the 1990s in this engrossing, if sometimes muddled, melodrama of ideas. When limousine-leftist lawyer and single dad Jim Grant is unmasked as Jason Sinai, an ex-Weather Underground militant wanted for a deadly bank robbery, he abandons his daughter and goes on the lam. As he evades a manhunt and seeks out old comrades, the author introduces a sprawling cast of drug dealers, bomb-planting radicals turned leftist academics, Vietnam vets, FBI agents and Republicans who collectively ponder the legacy of the '60s. Gordon (Sacrifice of Isaac) skillfully combines a tense fugitive procedural, full of intriguing lore about false identities and techniques for losing a tail, with a nuanced exploration of boomer nostalgia and regret. Alas, there are a few too many long-winded, semicoherent debates about the radical excesses of the era that inadvertently evoke marijuana-fueled dormitory bull sessions. Through these exchanges (and a little sexual healing), ideological opposites come together over a facile anti-politics of "national reconciliation." Gordon's rueful radicals, having finally outgrown their adolescent outrage over parental hypocrisy, decide that personal loyalty and raising children trump all belief systems and that "none of the principles matter" any longer. Some who lived through the 1960s may take offense at this caricature, but other boomer readers may find the mix of countercultural drama and familial schmaltz a gratifying validation of their life cycle. In either case, it will get them talking.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Gordon skillfully combines a tense fugitive procedural, full of intriguing lore about false identities and techniques for losing a tail, with nuanced exploration of boomer nostalgia and regret." - Publishers Weekly
"Compelling and intricately plotted...Well-rendered and engaging political drama." - Kirkus Reviews
"Rousing, cerebral...Gordon's plot is a doozy - a trio of doozies, in fact - yet utterly credible. He projects wrenching political and personal drama onto a slightly futuristic version of where we stand now as a people. In so doing he shows how we got here...What makes this novel compelling is not only the ideological spectrum it covers but its emotional chiaroscuro...It bids well to enter the company of our best fiction about the Vietnam era." - The New York Times Book Review
"Gripping." - Chicago Tribune
"Neil Gordan's The COmpany You Keep is an astonishing tour de force, at once an intellectual, emotional and political thriller...[A]n American novel in which plot, characters and ideas are in perfect balance. By bringing the past alive, Gordon enables us to see more clearly where America stands now." - San Francisco Chronicle
"Gordon skillfully interweaves the voices of his fictional narrators with many of the most important totems of the era: Vietnam, the shooting of Kent State students by Ohio National Guard members, and the bombing of a townhouse in Greenwich Village...His characters are so skilfully drwan that they remain likable and interesting, and their missives to Isabel are sincerely felt and compelling reads until the very last page." - The Boston Globe
"[A] hybrid of political novel, love story, cat-and-mouse thriller, and French bedroom farce...entertaining...The Company You Keep becomes an addictive page-turner of a book." - Seattle Times

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

This book is hard to put down!
Danielle
I saw the movie of 'The Company You Keep', and thought it so interesting that I just had to read the book.
Tony Batten
I would highly recommend the book to my two book clubs.
Judith A. Wilson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Cline on July 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the kind of book that appears far too seldom: it's smart, it's funny, it's emotionally authentic, and once you get started it's almost impossible to put down. Told by five or so equally engaging narrators, it manages to put the mystery of good parenting AND the moral complexity of America's involvement in the Viet Nam war under the same magnifying lens.

At the heart of the book is the story of Jason Sinai, a man forced to relinquish the underground identity that gave him refuge from prosecution for actions as a member of Weatherman (the SDS faction that sought to "bring the war home" by bombing various U.S. locations). His story is told as a series of emails to his daughter Isabel, who he abandoned (had to abandon?) when she was about six. The emails narrate the events of her father's escape and pursuit, as well as key events during his Weather phase.

Because the various narrators range in age and (to some extent) ideological vantage, the major themes don't lumber in and loom--the way you might anticipate from this short description--but glimmer through in changing guises. "All parents are bad parents," Sinai tells his daughter and though this at first seems like a glib rationale from a probably unreconstructed baby revolutionary, the book ultimately allows us to understand the pain of bad parenting from the parent's point of view as well as the child's. What more do you want from a novel? There are a couple of good twists that you may see coming but which are nevertheless satisfying, and there is great material about the legacy of the sixties at the family level as well as at the level of country, culture, nation, etc.

Obviously, a few paralells with current events also emerge, and make the story more complex and interesting--especially for anyone who grew up in the shadow of hippiedom.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bill Pieper, author of the novel WHAT YOU WISH FOR on September 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Fact and fiction so subtly intertwined that we no longer care which is which and believe one as the other. This is the story of the legendary Weather Underground, yet with quite a fresh twist. Set not in the "glory days" of the 1970s but in 2006, it looks back at more than just the excesses of Weather, its scope is the many changes in the US that this band of unlikely middle-class outlaws foretold. Excellent social observation, strong and completely believable characters, and plenty of narrative drive. What more could readers want?
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on September 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
The book occasionally interested me, but the falseness of the format threw me off track right from the start, and after that I had a tough time taking the characters seriously. The main problem is the e-mail format of the book. In order to preserve the book's suspense, I'll use an example from the first few pages. The books starts with an e-mail from a father to his daughter. He attempts to get her support for his upcoming parole hearing. Then the character launches into a marijuana spiel. In real life it might be important for a father to explain his drug use to his daughter, but it would stick to the point. The e-mail in the book suddenly veers into pages of phony hydroponic details about a miracle crop that evidently prunes itself, and blooms early under twenty hours of light per day. Even if the account was realistic, the father would never write pages of dope growing details to his daughter, especially in an e-mail that's intended to improve his chances for parole. The e-mail also includes crude dialogue that no father would send in a message to his teenage daughter. All the characters repeatedly try to justify the fact that they are writing things that nobody would actually write in an e-mail. All of the characters in the book write ten and twenty page e-mails, complete with dialogue and long-winded descriptions of every subject they come across. All of the characters write e-mails that they actually break into chapters. Try to remember the last time someone sent you a fifteen page e-mail that was divided into chapters. I know authors and professors, and more teachers than I can easily count, so I get plenty of literate e-mails, but I stand by my assertion that nobody has ever written e-mails even remotely comparable to the ones in this book.Read more ›
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By B. McEwan TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 12, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed this book, partially because I went to college in the 1960s but also because I see many of the social and political conditions of the 60s being replayed right now in 2004. This story of a group of former Weather Underground members is set at various times in the 1960s, in 1996 and in 2006. It traces the life of Jim Grant and his daughter, along with several people who are close to them, in Jim's past and in his present, and in our future.

I don't want to give away the story and I recommend that those who have not read the book avoid reading reviews that reveal too much. This book reads very well as a novel of suspense, so allow yourself to savor the details of the story as they unwind while you read. It also works as a morality tale of a sort, as well as a meditation on the nature of one's political convictions and how they stack up in importance versus the welfare of one's family and friends.

Right now in 2004, as we move through a deeply conflicted presidential election process, it's clear to me that we are not actually refighting the Viet Nam war, as some have said, but are rather re-arguing the two main moral positions associated with that war. I am convinced that for those of us who experienced that war, whether at long or close emotional and physical range, it will always be at the bottom of our conscious choices. It's not that we can't get past it; it's that the two basic oppositional points of view that were prevalent at the time have never been integrated into a consensual view of how to direct American foreign policy.

Just as the politics of our parents, the so-called "greatest generation," were always informed by their participation in WW II, so ours will always be informed by Viet Nam.
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