Fiction - Adventure
325 Pages
Reviewed on 11/02/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite

The lives of a family unexpectedly change when an abandoned teenage boy arrives at their farm in the heartwarming novel 1971 by Matt McGowan. After his father dies, thirteen-year-old Bud and his stepmother Fanny leave Detroit and head to California. On a rural highway in Missouri, Fanny pulls the car over and tells Bud it is overheated. Sending Bud to the nearest farm for help, Fanny waits at the car. However, when Bud returns with the middle-aged farmer, the vehicle is there, but Fanny is nowhere around. While the sheriff searches for Fanny, Bud stays at the farm with the farmer and his wife. In the meantime, Fanny continues her pilgrimage to California in the hopes of finding herself amidst her grief. While she travels the Southwest with a band of musicians, Bud goes to school and builds a life with the farmer and his family. Why did Fanny leave Bud behind in Missouri? Will she ever return for him?

The stunning novel 1971 by Matt McGowan is a poignant story of heartbreak, healing, and renewal. It is a heartwarming tale of a family's journey through loss and grief to joy and reconciliation. Skillfully written, the story demonstrates how unconditional love freely given has unexpected returns for the giver. Dramatic and uplifting, the intricate plot, absorbing storyline, and enigmatic characters are captivating from the first page until the last. The author, Matt McGowan, did an expert job of weaving a tinge of mystery and suspense around Fanny's identity and motivations. It is an outstanding novel that leaves the reader with a satisfied and happy feeling.

Natalie Soine

Matt McGowan's 1971 tells the story of Fanny Harrod and her 13-year-old stepson, Bud. Fanny decides to drive with Bud to L.A. after her husband Gilbert Harrod is killed when his fighter jet collides with a commercial plane over the San Gabriel Mountains. Fanny stops close to a farm when the 1968 Pontiac Le Mans overheats, and she sends Bud to a farmhouse to ask for help. Hershel Claypool is a World War II survivor who inherited the farm from his late father. Hershel and Bud make their way back to Fanny, but she is not in the car. She left after hitching a ride with a dump truck driver. Hershel reports Fanny’s disappearance to Barry County Sheriff Clifford Villines, who investigates Fanny’s disappearance and enlists private investigator Dudley Canterbury. Fanny ends up having to drive a band of musicians to L.A., where she leaves the band and goes her own way as she needs money and a place to sleep. It’s up to Canterbury to find her and take her in so that she can account for her actions.

Matt McGowan's 1971 Is well written, and the intriguing plot is carefully thought out. This mystery has a few bumps and turns along the way, and the tale has a twist. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, especially the descriptive way it was written, and how the interesting characters are all well described. The story kept me interested from the first page to the last, and I was sorry to have reached the end. Hopefully, there is a sequel or second book. I highly recommend 1971 to all readers. There are no profanities or mature scenes, so it is suitable for all ages. An awesome novel.

Vincent Dublado

A moving study in psychology and emotion, 1971 by Matt McGowan opens with Fanny Harrod driving a 1968 Pontiac Le Mans. In the front seat is her thirteen-year-old stepson, Bud. Fanny has been driving straight and stops only for cars and cigarettes. On U.S. 60 between Aurora and Monett, she stops to listen to the crickets and smoke another cigarette. She has been grieving the recent death of her husband. She only recently learned about the existence of Bud days after their marriage, and she is still trying to reconcile with the thought of being his stepmother. Fanny asks Bud to go get help as they are experiencing some car trouble. While Bud searches for help, Fanny abandons the car and leaves her stepson. Bud is left in the care of the Claypools—the family that he found to ask for help. Sheriff Clifford Villines will exhaust all means to track Fanny for reasons that don’t simply hinge on the requirements of his position.

With its captivating storyline and characters that play effectively around it, 1971 is a novel that shows literary promise. Matt McGowan writes dialogues that flow naturally, and he doesn’t force them to explain too much. This is because McGowan skillfully uses description to supply context to the story—a piece of additional narrative information. His descriptions of local color and other sensory details mirror the internal landscape or the sentiments of his characters. Consider how Fanny hates the car, which reminds her of her late husband, who was supposed to go back to work in Southeast Asia. Consider too how insects swarm upon Bud’s face and neck that cause him to sneeze and how he encounters the pungent scent of an opossum’s rotting carcass—intelligent external devices that mirror his internal feeling that something is about to go wrong. Without a doubt, I highly recommend this book for its powerful and moving narrative.