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Can’t Find My Way Home, by Gwynne Garfinkle

Review copy provided by the publisher. Also I have once again known the author just short of forever On Here.

Jo is a young actress trying to make it in New York in the mid-1970s. She’s got a role on one of the few soap operas still filming there–not her dream job, but steady work she unexpectedly loves. It’s all interrupted by the reappearance of her best friend Cyn from her younger, activist days protesting the war movement, who is determined not to let Jo settle into complacency in her new life.

Cyn does not happen to be alive any more. She died in a protest bombing of a draft office gone wrong–and Jo was supposed to be there with her.

So what does her ghost want? How can Jo exorcise Cyn, or help her find peace, or…whatever it is that falls between antagonism and collaboration in their complicated friendship? She keeps being thrown into might-have-beens in her own life that last longer and longer, showing her more and more of her own potential, roads not taken but worth considering…but why? How will they help her with the ghost of her best friend?

I am a total sucker for explorations of mid-twentieth century women’s work lives and choices, and I don’t mind a bit if the speculative element of something takes awhile to unfold, so I was absolutely the target audience for this book. Jo’s soap opera work was not something I’d really thought about before, but Garfinkle clearly did her research into the details of that field and treats it with respect but not reverence–just the right balance. Jo’s reconsideration of what was needed, what was useful, what was right, in regards to her past activism is well-situated in the ’70s–she is close enough to our own attitudes to be engaging but not unduly contemporary, and some of the questions she grapples with are still of interest today. This one is frankly feminist and takes its time with some very worthwhile questions, and it allows its humans to be human rather than insisting on Good Guys and Bad Guys. I’m so glad I got this copy.

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