“In early 1970 a new era, the Age of Aquarius, is dawning. Penny, who adopted the name of Sunflower on the way to the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, attends another rock concert touted as Woodstock West, at Altamont Speedway near San Francisco. Seeking to enhance the transcendent experience, she instead comes away covered in the blood of a man brutally stabbed to death in front of the stage.
“Has the new youth experience descended from idealism to anarchy? Confused and disillusioned, Sunflower embarks upon an odyssey across an America torn by violent anti-Vietnam War protests, racial tension, and gangs of hard drug dealers. From a search for a shared social experience it becomes a personal quest for fulfillment that leads her on a journey across continents.”
I wanted to write some sort of sequel to my novel “The Misadventures of Mama Kitchen”, to carry the story forward from the late 60s into 1970. However, instead of using the same main character of that previous novel, I took one of the minor characters from “Mama Kitchen”, Sunflower, who joins the bus on the trip across the States from San Francisco to Woodstock, and focused on post-Woodstock events in her life. From the light, carefree, almost surrealistic backgrounds in “Mama Kitchen” of a wilderness commune, Haight/Ashbury, and the Woodstock music festival, this novel becomes more grim as it deals with the disillusionment and dark times that followed the tragic Altamont concert. The dedication reads:
For the lost ones of the seventies
You know who you are
I have to confess that I myself was one of those lost ones, searching for truth and fulfillment in what appeared to be a brief illumination in the spiritual landscape followed by an extended period of profound darkness. Though I did not experience firsthand some of the events Sunflower goes through in the novel, such as the Kent State killings and the civil rights turmoil in the deep South, nevertheless as background I have drawn on much of my own experiences and inner turmoil during the early 70s in the writing of this book. I hope that I have been able to pass on something of what was of value of that era. Though some of the specific political and social problems that troubled the nation and the world have been resolved, others no less perplexing and devastating have arisen to take their place. And sometimes I feel as I look about me, relative newcomer to the American milieu that I am after having spent about thirty-five years abroad, that something is missing. I hope that it is not an irrevocable loss. I don’t know if I can put what was lost into words: an innocence, a profundity. We didn’t know any better then than we do now, but we deeply desired to know. That’s what I feel is missing: that deep, deep desire for truth, honesty, enlightenment, direction. I hope that I am wrong. I am sure that there are pockets of it hidden here and there in the shattered, hyper-technological postmodern landscape, but I would like to see it burst forth in manifestation and give direction to these directionless times. This novel, then, is my own attempt to put forth a cry in the wilderness, a light in the darkness.