Shaken by recent events as the winter of 1990 approaches, Jason, a 23 year old resident of San Jose, CA, is at a loss to understand how the charmed life of parties, good times, and a bright, optimistic future he once knew suddenly came to an end, and worries that it’s gone forever.
Sitting in the passenger seat of a truck driving through Santa Clara Valley, Jason’s memories turn back to the previous summer, and he takes a more focused look at the important events of the last six months of his life in an extended flashback. He begins where life was at its zenith of happiness, and traces its slow decline. Along the way he reflects upon the changing relationship with his girlfriend, the struggles of his best friend, the diaspora of his greater circle of friends, worsening conditions at his Silicon Valley workplace, his quest for an ever more expensive education, and the gnawing fear that he’s disappointing his family.
As the chain of events play out in Jason’s mind, he begins to see important, deeper things that originally escaped his notice. He comes to understand what was lost, how he got to where he is, and in the final chapter he comes full circle to where he was at in the first chapter, in the passenger seat of a truck driving through the Valley. His new life situation is then revealed, and finally conscious of the world around him, he is faced with a decision about which path to follow for the rest of his days.
San Jose, and the greater Santa Clara Valley, has a rich, varied, complex history, and continues to be a vital center of innovation and technology. It is also a flashpoint for controversies such as urban sprawl, racism, runaway real estate prices, and the struggle for economic survival amidst a growing wealth gap. Redwood Summer is a modest attempt at shining a literary spotlight on this important region. Additionally, it’s a story of love, friendship, betrayal, making choices, letting go, and finding your voice.
The events of Jason’s life also parallel the brief period of hopeful optimism between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the first Persian Gulf War with its resulting abandonment of the peace dividend. What happens to Jason is metaphorical of concurrent real life events.
And finally, Redwood Summer is a loving tribute to my hometown.
Following are the links to all 17 chapters as well as an opening short story.
The Hill, a short story prologue