Where the Wind Blew
by Bob Sommer

(The Wessex Collective)

In Where the Wind Blew, Bob Sommer pens an intriguing tale of an anti-war protestor and criminal who is found out over twenty-five years after his protesting days are over. One cannot help but be reminded of 61-year-old Sara Jane Olson (a.k.a. Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist Kathleen Soliah), arrested for a bombing that occurred during her Sixties-protestor days, and this year's news briefs about presidential hopeful Barack Obama's connection to past Weather Underground member William Ayers.

Regardless of current-day parallels, Where the Wind Blew is still a work of fiction. But within this work and in the voices of the Sixties protestors, there are echoes from that reverberate down to the Iraq War:

"It's not that people support the war. It's that they're so ignorant about it they don't even know what's really going on. You see truck drivers with little American flags in their windows, putting their mindless nationalism on display like a chip on their shoulders, daring someone to knock it off. But if foreigners occupied this soil and set up their own power structure, and stole our resources to profit billions of dollars while the people of this country remained impoverished and powerless, what would they think then?"

The novel opens in 1999 with Peter St. John on the run. But Peter's past crimes are about to blow up and expose him. In another life, Peter St. John (a.k.a. Peter Howell) and a group of war protestors bombed a radar manufacturer for supplying equipment to the military. The bombing killed four people: a company V.P. and three of their fellow protestors, and also severely wounded one employee at the radar plant. Peter and one other protestor remained at large while two of their comrades took the fall, getting sentenced to 27 years in prison.

Hoping to put the past behind him, Peter has started a new life in Kansas. He is married, has kids, and is a respectable member of society, but the past still haunts him:

He had tried to put the past away, just as he'd stashed these artifacts in an envelope in the back of a locked file drawer, but the people, the memories now poured out and surrounded him. Not memories, but a reality he was still living.

Until one day-an ambitious high school journalist verifying Peter's resume for a school board position puts the pieces together and writes about the bombings, connecting holes in Peter's past with the unsolved bombing from 1971. Peter flees, staying one step ahead of the FBI and hiding out initially in the woods, leaving his unsuspecting wife to watch her world unravel without him.

This is a tale of a protestor but it is also about a family working through grief and secrets, including Peter's unsuspecting wife:

She had been unpredictable since soon after Peter disappeared. Her moods swung in loops, like a tether ball being pushed back and forth around a pole, high and low, in long arches and short circles....

Where the Wind Blew trades volleys between Peter's current day life-on-the-lam and the bombing plot of 1971 unfolding. The story is so believable and well-told that I felt I had an insider's knowledge of what it would have been like to live through the protests on college campuses during the Vietnam War era:

Crowds surge over the quad, flowing like hot lava, smothering it in a searing rush. Signs are pumped and waved. On the narrow road along the far edge of the quad, campus security cars pull up with lights whirling as crowds swarm past them.

Sommer's fast-paced writing effectively pulls us through this page-turning novel. In addition to publishing several pieces in well-respected national journals, Sommer has published two books on writing. This is his first novel.

- Kristin Johnson