“The summer I was born Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Ted Kennedy put Chappaquiddick on the map, and my parents, along with my uncle Jake and me, set out on a pilgrimage to Woodstock. Only Jake got there . . .”
With its opening allusion to the summer of ’69, Just Like February weaves together a narrative framed by the passions of the ’60s and the tragic undercurrent of the ’80s.
Part love story, part story of a family’s unraveling, the novel begins with the wedding of Rachel’s parents when she’s five and ends with her sexual awakening as Jake is dying. Driving the narrative is Rachel’s keen awareness of the world around her: the stormy love between her mother (a social worker) and her father (a Vietnam veteran); the strong opinions and quirky beliefs of her grandmother, Ruth; the changing landscape on the streets of Brooklyn where she lives; and the homophobia exacerbated by the AIDS crisis. Then there’s Jake, as much beloved uncle as metaphor. His birth date, February 29th, is a reminder of the random forces at play in the way our lives pan out. As the shortest month of the year, February evokes a life cut short too soon.