Hancock Hill by Peter Silverman
Time is on the side of Peter Silverman. The author’s second novel, Hancock Hill, is a superbly written, emotional powerhouse that will lead some readers to experience the silent cry. The setting is 1950s America and Alex Dunhaigen, a high school senior, has one thing on his mind: sex. Getting it in. Unfortunately, the young man experiences the horror of premature love and the psychological trauma that results when one gets “too close.” In the case of poor Alex, a little innocent sledding changes the course of his life and regret tortures his mind throughout his collegiate years. One woman. One sled. One perfect night. Alex cannot forget…even while he develops a device that could change the world.
Peter Silverman’s heartbreaking tale cuts deep with each comedic, yet heavy chapter. The author introduces various cultural themes in the 14 chapters of Hancock Hill, specifically post-war life in America and the racial tensions of the 1950s. Alex balances on a line of past regret and the unknown future. One may find Silverman’s early text somewhat problematic as the narrator references “cock” and “ass,” only to follow with words like “buttocks.” The writing is honest and hilarious, but Silverman’s voice takes on the tone of a sexually frustrated teenager one-minute and an old man the next. Ass or buttocks? Thankfully the author also moves on from clichés like “one more cigarette” or “one more drink.” The intellectual badboy i.e. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield. Fortunately for Silverman, the ass/buttocks conundrum is only a minor problem in Hancock Hill. The author brilliantly conveys the tension experienced by Alex during sexual romps and the psychological warfare that ensues. Silverman keeps the focus on what Alex desires with his female companions, but can’t necessarily have, and how that affects him in the moment. Alex contemplates the idea of the future, yet is still torn about a gal he spent four hours with in high school. Hey, we’ve all been there and know how it feels. Silverman understands his characters in and out, and the thorough detail allows for one paint a mental picture as they read. That’s what it’s all about: presenting a story that one can identify with. Peter Silverman gets it done with Hancock Hill.
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