Who were the heroes: the ones dying in Vietnam or the dissenters who protested with signs and refused to go to battle? "Long Time Passing" is of both groups - the students at Berkeley who protested the war and the military who fought in a foreign land.
The protagonists of "Long Time Passing," Auleen and Jonas, each belong to one of those factions; one marrying a conscientious objector who moves to Canada and the other joining the Marines to find his officer father listed as missing in action.The things that hold them together are the plot of the story, fresh and new love, and the differences in philosophy that drive them apart for 20 years.
This is a story of relationships, families, people in joint communes and isolated in a village that excludes the non-traditional. These groups are attracted to their own diverse social, religious and political beliefs as moths are to a candle flame. At times they are singed by the risks they take and only then fly in convoluted patterns with others of their kind.
Jason is sent to Aunt Hester after his father accepts a military assignment in Saigon. The recent death of his mother in a car accident and the unfriendly town cause the first exerted signs of independence in his 18 years. When he meets Gideon, with whom he had been forbidden to associate, and Auleen, a wild-eyed beauty, he rebels even further. Evenings in the nearby commune and helping Gideon build his cabin result in Aunt Hester's curfew, which Jason ignores.
Jason enrolls in college at Berkeley instead of entering the Marines and realizes he stands with feet in two worlds - a military background and a resistance to violence. His decisions are the plot of the book.
"Long Time Passing," taken from an anti-war song of the 1970s, as well as the metaphor for Auleen and Jason's 20 years apart, is a nostalgic piece. We, who lived through the time of dissenters and war, recall the songs, sit-ins, protest marches and "flower children" who clustered together, frightened yet never lacking for bravado.
Young people today won't get the same taste in their mouths or hear the songs with quite the same lilt as the past generation, but they will be able to relate to Jones' story of young love, spirited groupies and prejudice for and against war.
"Blowin' in the Wind" may have been a song of the 1960s and '70s, but the message - as this book - is timeless.
"Long Time Passing" is a book for readers at least 16 and up, but it is especially for adults who question, "Where have all the flowers gone . . . "