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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
The Pilgrim is a coming of age memoir written by Dennis Bieker. Dennis was 17 in 1968, a time of turmoil and change. He was within that youthful age group that witnessed the political assassinations that destroyed a generation’s hopes and dreams, and he was at just the right age to be faced with the prospect of going to fight a war he didn’t believe in over in Vietnam. When his memoir begins, he had just graduated half a term early in the beginning of 1969, and he and his father set off on the first step to move from wintry Wisconsin to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Dennis’ Uncle Sal had arranged construction jobs for the two of them and was putting them up in his rental condo. In six months, they’d return to Wisconsin for Dennis’ sister’s wedding and then the entire family would move down south. Along with the excitement of moving and getting a job were the pangs of the loss of his friends, the musical group he’d played with for so many years, and the places he knew growing up.
Dennis Bieker’s coming of age memoir, The Pilgrim, is the story of a generation that saw and lost so much. The spectre of an unending war loomed over children as they studied in high school, and the memory of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was a wound that had not even begun to heal. Bieker’s chapter headings follow the times his character lives through; heady times that changed so rapidly and altered so dramatically, especially for one on the brink of leaving home to explore and pursue a dream of becoming a musical star. Bieker writes simply and lyrically, and I was quickly wrapped up in his character’s life and experiences. I loved reading about his trip down south and his first impressions of the construction site where he met and became friends with Reed, the elderly African-American worker. The party scenes also rang true, brimming with sexual tension mingled with nostalgia for something that was ending. The Pilgrim is a marvelous trip back into the past for those readers who found themselves in the Baby Boom generation, and I suspect those who weren’t might find themselves gazing wistfully at the sense of promise and adventure hinted at in this memoir. The Pilgrim is most highly recommended.