Cover image for An unfinished season
An unfinished season
Just, Ward S.
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Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, [2004]

Physical Description:
251 pages ; 24 cm
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library

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"The winter of the year my father carried a gun for his own protection was the coldest on record in Chicago." So begins Ward Just's An Unfinished Season, the winter in question a postwar moment of the 1950s when the modern world lay just over the horizon, a time of rabid anticommunism, worker unrest, and government corruption. Even the small-town family could not escape the nationwide suspicion and dread of "the enemy within." In rural Quarterday, on the margins of Chicago's North Shore, nineteen-year-old Wilson Ravan watches as his father's life unravels. Teddy Ravan -- gruff, unapproachable, secure in his knowledge of the world -- is confronting a strike and even death threats from union members who work at his printing business. Wilson, in the summer before college, finds himself straddling three worlds when he takes a job at a newspaper: the newsroom where working-class reporters find class struggle at the heart of every issue, the glittering North Shore debutante parties where he spends his nights, and the growing cold war between his parents at home. These worlds collide when he falls in love with the headstrong daughter of a renowned psychiatrist with a frightful past in World War II. Tragedy strikes her family, and the revelation of secrets calls into question everything Wilson once believed.
From a distinguished chronicler of American social history and the political world, An Unfinished Season is a brilliant exploration of culture, politics, and the individual conscience.

Author Notes

Ward Just (born 1935 in Waukegan, Illinois) is an American writer. He is the author of 15 novels and numerous short stories.

Ward Just briefly attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He started his career as a print journalist for the Waukegan (Illinois) News-Sun. He was also a correspondent for Newsweek and The Washington Post from 1959 to 1969, after which he left journalism to write fiction.

His novel, An Unfinished Season, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005. His novel Echo House was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. He has twice been a finalist for the O. Henry Award: in 1985 for his short story About Boston, and again in 1986 for his short story The Costa Brava, 1959. His most recent novel is entitled, Exiles in the Garden. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Just is a quintessential American writer whose penetrating yet elegant and atmospheric novels seek to decode watershed historic moments. In the prizewinning A Dangerous Friend 0 (1999), he dramatizes the Vietnam War. Here he cycles back to the Korean War, McCarthyism, and the shift from family businesses to faceless corporations and captures the era's essence in a tight time frame: the nineteenth summer of Wilson Ravan, the only child of an increasingly anachronistic printing-plant owner. Wilson is eager to leave the uneasy enchantment of his parents' house on the edge of Chicago's affluent North Shore, but in the meantime he is learning about the wider world by working at a sleazy Chicago newspaper and by becoming involved with a thorny young woman whose famous psychiatrist father is burdened by horrific war memories. In a Fitzgerald-like take on one young man's abrupt awakening to the complexity and injustice of existence, Just masterfully evokes the bittersweet beauty of city and suburb, the immensity of solitude, the fortitude life requires, and death's ever-present shadow. And while his watchful hero thinks about how too much can be made of something, and too little, Just gets it exactly right. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Just's novels (Echo House; A Dangerous Friend; etc.) never exceed a tidy length. But they contain such a deep understanding of the long arm of history, the pernicious abuse of power and the folly of human nature that their intellectual and emotional weight should be measured in metaphorical tonnage. An assured chronicler of the American character, in his 14th novel Just returns to his own roots in the Midwest, examining the heartland as a state of mind. In the 1950s, narrator Wils Ravan's family lives in a Chicago suburb. At 19, about to graduate from high school, Wils is an observer of his parents' strained marriage and his father Teddy's stubborn resolve to defeat the union organizers behind the strike at his printing factory. Wils's summer job is as a copy boy at a Chicago tabloid, where he becomes aware of the routine corruption in city government and finds himself complicit in the yellow journalism that destroys reputations. On another level, he attends dozens of country club dances given for debutantes on the North Shore. At one of these events he meets Aurora Brule, the strong-willed daughter of a mysteriously aloof society psychiatrist, Jason "Jack" Brule, and they fall in love. Jack Brule, meanwhile, becomes the novel's most compelling character. Withdrawn, secretive, obsessive and "passionately coiled," he hides a harrowing memory that explodes at great cost. The summer's events leave Wils ruefully disillusioned and aware of his lost innocence, but committed to the social and ethical code that will guide his life. It's always a pleasure to read Just's prose-crisp and intelligent, animated by dry humor and by a realism that is too humane to be cynical. This novel, with its resonant questions about the class divisions that most Americans refuse to acknowledge, is one of his most trenchant works to date. Agent, Lynn Nesbit. (July 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In 1950s Chicago, Wilson Ravan, son of a printing magnate, spends his days with working-class reporters and his nights at high-society bashes. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.