Author Lee Livingston’s memoir begins by introducing his readers to Dango, a high school friend who committed suicide at the age of twenty-nine.
As the story begins it feels like merely an elegy for a loved one lost, but it soon metamorphoses into more than that. Through vivid depiction of Dango—portrayals of his fun-loving spirit, sense of humor and audaciousness—the reader begins to learn more about the author’s own life. It has been said that we are often defined by the people we love and, conversely, by the people who love us. Dango’s story, in many ways, is the author’s story.
The most prominent feature of the memoir is the 1961 road trip in which the two travel across the interstate, dreaming of the future, enjoying the pleasures of youth, ignorant of the turmoil of the coming years. America was on the verge of transformation; the assassination of a beloved president and social and political unrest were waiting in the wings. Livingston’s coming of age journey, as it might accurately be called, runs parallel to the coming of age story of America. He depicts a simpler time in history, when, as he describes it, “the world was smaller”. His nostalgia for the sixties is not lost on the reader and, somehow, he instills in his audience a sense of nostalgia for that era as well.
In the Rearview Mirror features writing that is unpretentious; clear, simple prose that never forgets its focus. The pacing of the story and a sense of catharsis is merged together as the reader comes to see Dango with the author’s eyes. By the book’s end we feel a sense of empathy for the author and a lesson instilled, the notion being: value the people in your life. Be there for them and when you fail at your quest, learn to forgive yourself.
A must read not only for the baby boomer generation, but great commentary on friendship, mental illness and, ultimately, the road towards redemption.
Reviewed by Rebecca Nichloson for IndieReader