The Drifters is a big novel about six rootless young people and two much older men whose addresses are poste restante.
Initially, it seems a surprising departure for James A. Michener, noted for big, place-based novels, such as Hawaii and The Source, but it becomes an exploration of how Vietnam-era youth became alienated from the societies in which they grew up and what it would take for them to put down roots.
The stories of the six young people are narrated by a 60-something financial deal maker for an insurance company. His work takes him around the world to find good investments.
Divorced and alienated from his own son, Mr. Fairbanks meets some of the youth in the course of his work and is introduced to the others through them.
Fairbanks introduces the young people to ex-Marine Harvey Holt, a communications technician who works in remote places, but comes every year to run with the bulls in Papaloma.
From the dust jacket descriptions, the young people bumming in Europe and North Africa sound like caricatures of ‘sixties figures. By showing Fairbanks’ efforts to understand them, Michener makes them feel very real.
Through The Drifters, I found myself understanding somewhat today’s right-wing youth who want their countries back.
The Drifters: A Novel by James A. Michener
Random House, ©1971, 751 p.
1971 bestseller #8. My grade: A
© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni