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Review: Sag Harbor

March 5, 2009


Colson Whitehead’s fourth novel, Sag Harbor is presented as an autobiographical novel.  It’s the coming of age story of Benji Cooper.  Benji is a 15 year old African American, upper middle class boy from Manhattan in 1985.  His family is one of a large number of black families who own second homes in Sag Harbor, on Long Island.  Benji is a good kid who isn’t really cool – he can’t keep up with the latest slang or handshakes.  His parent’s marriage seems to be on shaky ground because his father drinks too much and can be verbally abusive.

During the summer of 1985, Benji (or Ben as he now prefers to be called) is left in charge of his younger brother Reggie all week in Sag Harbor while their parents are back in New York, working.  Their parents join them some weekends.  (By today’s standards, this seems like neglect.)  Benji and Reggie hang out with their friends, get into some mischief and work during the summer.

One evening, Benji runs into his sister.  She rarely comes home since she left for college.  She advises Benji to work hard so he can “get out.”  He doesn’t really understand what she means.  While he understands the tension in his family, he has a deep love for Sag Harbor.

This book was just okay for me.  The characters weren’t that interesting and most of the action was mundane day to day stuff.  I felt like I was missing an underlying theme, but could never figure it out.  Maybe someone who grew up in the 1980’s would enjoy it more than I did.

Review copy provided by Barnes & Noble First Look Club.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2009 7:37 am

    OH MY GOSH! Totally forgot about this one! Eeek. And I really don’t know how anxious I am to read it after your review.

  2. March 5, 2009 8:12 am

    I believe he, himself, says that it’s a bit mundane, so if the author says it . . . well, what else are you supposed to expect? 🙂

  3. March 5, 2009 8:58 am

    Thanks so much for this honest review! I haven’t been drawn to the book and I’m glad to see that my instincts may have been correct.

  4. March 5, 2009 9:34 am

    After a couple of B&N book club flops I decided to sit this one out. And I guess I made the right choice.

  5. March 5, 2009 9:47 am

    Thanks for the honest review. I think I’ll pass on this one.

  6. March 5, 2009 9:57 am

    Books about the day to day have to be exceptional to work. Sorry this was just an okay read!

  7. stacybuckeye permalink
    March 5, 2009 10:05 am

    Hmm. I grew up in the 80’s, but your review doesn’t have me rushing out to find a copy. 🙂 Maybe I’ll look through it when I’m working at the library today.

  8. March 5, 2009 10:57 am

    I’ve seen a few reviews for this one already. I did grow up in the 80’s so I’d still like to give it a go one of these days. Thanks for being honest though Kathy.

  9. March 5, 2009 12:03 pm

    Thank you for a good, honest review. It hasn’t stopped me from checking out this book. I like coming of age books and most of them are so dramatic. Maybe I need a little mundane in my book reading. lol

  10. March 5, 2009 12:09 pm

    I’m glad I passed on this one. I read the description on Amazon and thought….meh….didn’t think it would float my boat.

  11. alirambles permalink
    March 5, 2009 3:19 pm

    I’m intrigued by this one–bummed to hear it didn’t do it for you, though. If coming of age in the 80’s is the key, I’m there–graduated from high school in 85. I’ll be snagging Sag Harbor from the library, when it comes out.

  12. March 5, 2009 7:02 pm

    I’m kind of glad I passed on this one after reading your review.

  13. March 6, 2009 2:08 am

    I’ve heard it’s supposed to be a slice of life set in the 80’s culture but it just doesn’t sound like something I would want to rush out and get to read.

  14. March 6, 2009 7:53 am

    Doesn’t look like it has much of a plot. It seems like it is character based but you said the characters aren’t interesting either. And it sounds depressing too. Does it have a happy ending?

  15. Nicole permalink
    March 6, 2009 2:19 pm

    I don’t think I was able to spend more than a weekend away at that age and supervised of course.

  16. March 6, 2009 4:18 pm

    Thanks for the honest review Kathy!

  17. March 7, 2009 4:54 pm

    I did grow up in the eighties, but I am not sure I’d pick this one up based on your review, Kathy. Thanks for the honest perspective.

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