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March 13 , 2011

Testing the Current


Growing up in a small upper Midwestern town in the late 1930s, young Tommy MacAllister is scarcely aware of the Depression, much less the rumblings of war in Europe. For his parents and their set, life seems to revolve around dinners and dancing at the country club, tennis dates and rounds of golf, holiday parties, summers on the Island, and sparkling occasions full of people and drinks and food and laughter. But curious as he is and impatient to grow up, Tommy will soon come to glimpse the darkness that lies beneath so much genteel complacency: hidden histories and embarrassing poor relations; the subtle (and not so subtle) slighting of the “help”; the mockery of President Roosevelt; and “the commandment they talked least about in Sunday school,” adultery.

In Testing the Current William McPherson subtly sets off his wide-eyed protagonist’s perspective with mature reflection and wry humor and surrounds him with a cast of vibrant characters, creating a scrupulously observed portrait of a place and time that will shimmer in readers’ minds long after the final page is turned.

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