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Wilson explores change in new book

Special to The Recorder

“All That Endures” by Wilson Roberts (Wilder Publications, 774 pages, $29.99/paperback)

The 1960s saw more change than almost any other decade in American history. Civil rights, the sexual revolution, student unrest, and feminism all came of age at that memorable time. Wilson Roberts of Greenfield explores the ways in which the 1960s affected rural New England in his novel “All That Endures.”

Like Wilson’s recent suspense novel “Poet’s Seat,” the new book is set in the fictional county of Wessex in western Massachusetts. Wessex is referred to as Franklin County’s poorer, more rural sister. Most of the action takes place in the small town of Keetsville.

As the book opens, two young brothers from Texas, Brud and Reggie Hicks, meet and marry two wealthy cousins from Boston. The girls’ family owns land in Keetsville so the couples and some of their friends decide to try creating a Utopian community there.

Described as too young to be beatniks and too old to be hippies, the denizens of the new Walden Brook Farm want to live communally off the land. They construct their own housing (plumbing takes a while to arrive), make a lot of music and hope to improve the world.

As the farm attracts members and becomes established, many Keetsville citizens worry. People like gun dealer Leo Dennison have been fretting for some time about what they perceive as drastic challenges to their traditional way of life.

These include the construction of the highway Dennison calls “Innersnake 91,” the community colleges opening in Greenfield and in Wessex’s county seat of Graham and the unrest in rest of the nation.

Other Keetsville denizens, including the owner of the local general store, note that the young people at Walden Brook Farm shop locally, pay their taxes and try to get along with their neighbors.

As the months go by the residents of Walden Brook Farm learn to temper their idealism with practicality. The residents of Keetsville learn to accept the inevitability of change. Both groups learn that their initial views of other people may be wrong.

“All That Endures” starts slowly as Roberts introduces a wide variety of characters. Eventually, the reader comes to appreciate the complexity of those characters and to value the book’s comprehensiveness.

Keetsville and Wessex County don’t always ring true; in some ways the native Keetsvillians seem more southern than northern in their dialogue and attitudes. Nevertheless, much of the book will feel familiar to those of us living in Wessex County’s non-fictional sister.

Many of us know at least a few middle-aged people who came to this area to live closer to the land in the 1960s. Like the inhabitants of Walden Brook Farm, those people took a while to be accepted by the community.

And, also like the inhabitants of Walden Brook Farm, they ended up getting along with — and enriching the lives of — their neighbors.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of The Pudding Hollow Cookbook (www.merrylion.com) and Pulling Taffy (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

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