A High and Beautiful Wave
by John Wythe White
Mutual; 320 pages
Built on a platform of revolving life remembrances, John Wythe White’s first novel follows college English teacher Oakley’s search for life’s meaning. Bouncing between vignettes set in the ’60s, ’70s and 2001, the novel is classic ’60s in theme and details — complete with acid trips and war protests.
In 2001, Oakley revisits Kaua’i’s Taylor Camp, where he’d dodged the draft in the ’70s, noting differences in the Islands from a visitor perspective, and in himself. Since White’s ’70s utopia was also Taylor Camp, the novel has the feel of memoir, but heavy dialogue imparts the cadence of script and the book is more mental journey than straightforward plot.
White juggles eras and voices well, his prose taut and confident, but it’s a wonder Oakley sees anything beneath his alcohol and pot daze, remaining, like the narrative, anchored in escape, occasional spiritual grounding, and heaps of nostalgia.
Reviewed by Christine Thomas
for the Honolulu Advertiser