Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Are You Experienced? by Jordan Sonnenblick

How can you understand a time that you didn't live in? You can't. You can listen to the music from that time. You can read books about it. You can hear stories from people who lived it. But I don't think you can ever know what it was really like. Too bad you can't time travel...like Rich does in this book.

Rich doesn't ask to go back in time; it just happens. He strums a chord on an old guitar and ends up at the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969. I make it sound like it just happened, but it is more mystical and sad than that. The guitar has been hidden away in a room where Rich's dad keeps all the items related to his brother Michael who died two months after Woodstock. Every year on the anniversary of Michael's death, Rich's dad locks himself in the room and listens to old music.

A simple strum of the strings and Rich finds himself in 1969 running into his Uncle Michael, Michael's girlfriend Willow and Rich's dad (age 15) on their way to the festival. Being the time that it was, no one is too surprised to see a 15 year old appear out of nowhere wearing nothing but the silver-white hair on his head (the color changed during the time travel). Rich realizes that this is a golden opportunity to not just see some of the most famous rock performances ever (he has studied Woodstock extensively) but also get to know his uncle (who died long before he was born) and to hang out with his dad (who is a strict, melancholy adult).

It is with eyes wide open that Rich learns much about why his dad behaves the way he does (he is very strict) and what really happened to his uncle. Rich's dad has never talked about his brother or anything surrounding his death. In fact, he blames Woodstock for causing Michael's death. It all starts to make sense. Rich has purpose for being there. He is a messenger of sorts.

I really felt like I was being taken to Woodstock to experience it with Rich. We hear the music right along with him and get to see performances through his descriptions. And Jimi Hendrix plays an important part in the story, too.

I really identified with parts of this story. Rich had an uncle he never knew because he died before Rich was born. That is true for me, too. His uncle died two months after Woodstock. My uncle died the week of Woodstock (he was killed in Vietnam). It is a small thing, but I felt more connected to the story.

As with any Jordan Sonnenblick book, I recommend this one. It is a trip back to the late 1960s and gives examples of some of the best parts of the time and some of the worst.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog and the author's site.

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