Welcome to Pump Up Your Book’s Virtual Book Tour for Expiation
Expiation: 1. Definition [noun] compensation for a wrong; to make amends or reparation for (wrongdoing or guilt); atone for; satisfaction
2. To pay the penalty of: Suffer for; the act of atoning for sin or wrongdoing
Dan Murphy had it all as his high school graduation rapidly approached in the spring of 1968. He was the quarterback on his high school’s football team. His girlfriend, Katie, was the most popular girl in school — an attractive, petite cheerleader, homecoming and prom queen. After earning excellent grades and being mentored by his high school newspaper adviser, he was accepted into both an internship program with the San Francisco Examiner newspaper and the University of California, Berkeley. As part of the internship program, the Examiner would pay his tuition. The only problem? The Examiner and Berkeley are both located in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Dan and Katie resided in Seattle and Katie planned to attend the University of Washington, but they longed to remain together.
They parted tearfully, promising to write regularly, call each other as often as they could, and work to make their dream of both attending Berkeley during their sophomore years a reality. Dan promised that he would be back in Seattle for Christmas.
Dan thrived. He loved working at the Examiner and quickly advanced in his new career as he completed his studies. The late 1960’s were an exciting time, especially with all of the protests against the Vietnam War taking place. Dan impressed a veteran reporter who, much to Dan’s astonishment, asked him to work with him on the story of the self-dubbed Zodiac serial murderer who was terrorizing much of Northern California. It was an opportunity Dan could not pass up, even thought it meant remaining in California over the holidays, much to Katie’s disappointment.
Wendy Takahashi was acing calculus, but Dan was not. He asked her to tutor him and he found himself increasingly drawn to the free-spirited, beguiling young artist, even though he still loved Katie. When he finally made it back to Seattle for a visit, he discovered that Katie had gone to Oregon with her parents to attend a family reunion. So Dan poured out his feelings in a letter that he secured to the front door of Katie’s residence. Then he returned to California and waited to hear from her. When he never did, he moved on with his life.
Now it is November 1999, and Dan, a widower for the past decade, has returned to Seattle from his San Francisco home after learning of his mother’s sudden death. In the church during his mother’s funeral, Dan looks over and sees Katie seated in a pew. He is stunned. He never forgot Katie and attempted to locate her several times over the years, with no success. Suddenly, they are reunited. Will they pick up where they left off or is it too late for the high school sweethearts? Has too much time passed for them to find their way back to each other? Do they have anything in common any longer, aside from their shared history?
First love. We all remember it. Every emotion is new, previously unexperienced, exciting. In high school, one’s future is vast, unexplored, and seemingly limitless. Graduation is a double-edged sword: A thrilling milestone met with trepidation and some regret because of all the people and routines that are about to be left behind forever. One of the people often left behind is the classmate upon whom one had that first big crush. Readers will relate to Dan and Katie’s musings over the years about how each other’s lives turned out and whether the other found happiness.
Expiation is author Greg Messell’s second published novel. Messell grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area before enjoying a career as a Wyoming sports and news editor for a local newspaper. The story of Dan and Katie is revealed through a first-person narrative, entirely from Dan’s perspective, with flashbacks to his college years interspersed in order to explain Dan’s life experiences. Messell’s obvious love of the Bay Area and familiarity with some of the major news stories of that time period — in addition to the anti-war protests and Zodiac case, he also discusses the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, as well as the 1989 Loma Prieto earthquake — make those portions of the story come alive. Messell places Dan in the midst of a protest against the Vietnam War that turns violent, as well as at Candlestick Park attending the San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland A’s 1989 World Series during which the earthquake hit. Worse, Dan has by then taken up residence in the Marina District of San Francisco in which numerous homes collapsed and fires broke out. Dan’s panicked attempt to get home from the ballpark to determine the well-being of his family and home will send shivers down the spines of readers who vividly recall the news coverage detailing the plight of many Marina District inhabitants.
It is a story about relationships and lost love. It is not a romance novel even though it is romantic. It is a story about trying to reclaim lost love which seems to resonate with many people who wonder about old sweethearts from their past.~ Author Greg Messell on Expiation
Dan and Katie are believable, likable and, ultimately, endearing characters. The unraveling of their romance is credible, especially when considered in light of the times. Messell points out, for the benefit of younger readers, that in 1968 there was no internet, email, fax machines or even nationwide long distance rate plans. Most people did not own answering machines. Communicating with a friend or loved one living two states away was limited to either a costly long distance telephone call or written correspondence sent via the U.S. Postal Service. Assumptions, suppositions, and pride played a role in Dan’s belief that Katie did not respond to his hand-delivered letter and he proceeded to establish a home and career in California. Katie’s belief that Dan never returned to Seattle for her, as he had promised, is equally plausible.
Messell’s treatment of Dan and Katie’s present-day story of renewed love and commitment is less successful than his forays into descriptions of past events. It is difficult to believe that in a matter of just fourteen days two people in their late 40’s could be ready to jump into a relationship with someone they have had no contact with for over thirty years. After all, people change dramatically after high school as they experience many different life events. Dan and Katie profess that they have never stopped loving each other, despite all the years that have elapsed since they last saw each other, but they no longer know each other. The romance moves far too quickly to be convincing and Dan’s sudden willingness to abandon his beloved Bay Area and career with the San Francisco Chronicle do not ring true. Worse, none of Dan and Katie’s friends, colleagues or family, including Dan’s daughter, even question their rash decision-making. The repetitive and stilted dialogue between Dan and Katie reveals Messel’s novice status as a romance novelist, especially when compared to the well-paced, compelling manner in which the flashback chapters are constructed.
Despite those flaws, Expiation is an enjoyable story about two people upon whom fate bestows a much-desired second chance at happiness. The love story between Dan and Katie is heartwarming in its complicated simplicity and likely to send readers to their computers in an attempt to find out whatever happened to their first big love. It may even inspire readers to seek out and rekindle romance with the one that got away!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Expiation free of charge from the author in conjunction with the Pump Up Your Book review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Enter to Win a Copy of Expiation
Author Greg Messell has generously provided one copy of Expiation to be given to a lucky reader, selected at random.
To enter, simply post a comment! Be sure to include your email address (for notification and delivery purposes). The book can only be shipped to a United States or Canadian address (no P.O. box).