Richard North Patterson’s “Loss of Innocence”

Nothing reveals character better than conflict, adversity and resolution. What matters even more than what a protagonist wants and the obstacles they encounter is the way they respond to those obstacles. By this process, over the course of a novel, we see that person grow and evolve.

Conflict and adversity don’t always depend on body count, as multi-ward-winning writer Richard North Patterson’s Loss of Innocence shows. Fading actress Carla Pacelli travels to Martha’s Vineyard to visit aging author Whitney Dane. Their one common experience is that both once loved the same man, the father of Carla’s unborn child, Benjamin Blaine.

A resident of Massachusetts’ picturesque coast, Patterson paints his scenery with the loving care and painstaking detail of an Andrew Wyeth. His prose reads like liquid gold. But it’s his dialog and the meticulous development of his personae that makes his work so powerful. Each word spoken by his characters is perfect.

Carla joins Whitney at her family’s summer home overlooking the Atlantic. It was there in the summer of 1968 that Whitney, a recent graduate of Wheaton college and daughter of privilege, first met Blaine, a local college dropout working as a waiter and bartender. In the end, her engagement to a prospect more suitable to her social station cannot keep her from falling for Blaine.

A presidential election year, 1968 was an inflection point for those of us old enough remember it. Punctuated the Tet Offensive and major assassinations, it serves as a backdrop for Whitney’s coming of age, as it did for our nation. Over the course of a few months, Whitney comes to see her parents and her more beautiful sister for the tragic figures they are. She begins to question their plans for her, and in the process, discovers who she is.

Loss of Innocence, the second installment in the Blaine trilogy, is available online or at an independent bookstore near you. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did. Meanwhile, check out my debut novel Unfinished Business, also set in 1968.