Elysiana is a fictional barrier island off the coast of New Jersey. It is one mile wide, twenty-five miles long, and sees a huge population increase every summer when the tourists descend upon the elongated coast line. In the summer of 1969 a whole hoard of interesting characters find themselves on Elysiana, crossing paths with one another, working through painful pasts, and making up our story:
- Gwen ends up on the island after coming down from a three day drug trip that started in Chicago and on the tail end of some major daddy issues.
- Jack has lived on Elysiana for years, the only resident of a giant hotel built by his grandfather. He works as a lifeguard on the beach patrol and mostly lives inside his head, partly as a product of surviving a four year coma after a teenage accident.
- Avery Volpe is the militaristic head of the beach patrol, and possibly the most powerful person on Elysiana in the summertime.
- Norm Harlan is the city manager with ambitions to oust Volpe and the mayor. He also has a distractable wife and a precocious daughter named Sweetie who is constantly getting lost.
- Sylvia Buente fails to kill herself when she is rescued by Mike Ditzler, one of the life guards with his own complicated life story, and who is now holed up in his apartment.
- Petey Amato is a small-time crook and surfer who is pretty big-time on this little island.
The novel is solid overall, although with so many characters no single story line really draws the reader in. And with so much action, there isn't much time for characterization, which leaves some of these potentially very interesting people feeling rather thin. However, Knopf wrangles his sub-plots well and everything is tied together in a satisfying way, and with a very nice climax. This would be a nice summer read that wouldn't disappoint, as long as you didn't expect too much from it.