“Now as then, true believers loathe the moderates in their midst.” Even as a young girl, Karen Hollander proved herself to be a true believer and she surrounded herself with others who shared her ideals, but now as an esteemed 65 year old law professor she feels compelled to reveal a criminal past that came about as a result of those passions. In doing so, she will ruin not only her reputation, but those of some of her oldest, closest friends. Karen, Alex and Chuck, junior high school friends in the early 60’s, shared an obsession with everything James Bond. They devoured all of Ian Fleming’s Bond books, becoming experts on the characters, their motives and the trivia surrounding them. Their teenage exploits included assuming roles of the Bond characters and conducting spy missions in and around their suburban Chicago neighborhood, hoping to thwart Cold War enemies. The precocious trio continued their alliance when they were accepted at Harvard and Radcliff, but their focus shifted from Bond fantasies to anti-war sentiments. Their fervent devotion to civil rights and anti-war causes brought them to the attention of other radical students, resulting in an illegal and shameful secret that Karen has hidden for almost 50 years. Fear of its exposure has forced her to refuse a Supreme Court nomination and prompted her to seek the freedom and peace of mind that telling the truth might bring.
True Believers is not only an engrossing tale, it is almost an encyclopedia of the 1960s. Anderson includes hundreds of references to trends, events, and many aspects of the pop culture of the 1960s. We learn about the history, the politics and the economy of that period, as well as its values, customs and standards. Anderson presents the story from Karen’s point of view, having her alternately narrate the events of her youth and interact with her present day friends and family. The chapters that take place in the present are predominately conversations with her idealistic granddaughter, Waverly, who is very much like the young Karen. As Waverly reads the draft of Karen’s memoirs, she asks questions which allow Karen to explain the events of the 60s.
Vanessa Hart’s narration makes the audio book even more enjoyable. Her easygoing cadence as Karen speaks suggests the maturity and confidence of an intelligent, compassionate woman who has achieved celebrity while remembering her beginnings. This adds authenticity and allows the reader to relate to Karen and her decision to confess, no matter the cost. This is a very satisfying audio book which will appeal to a variety of listeners, from history buffs to those interested in sociology to anyone looking for a captivating story told by a likable heroine.
True Believers by Kurt Anderson
Read by Vanessa Hart
Random House Audio, unabridged: 18.5 hours on 15 CDs