The Great Pretenders by Laura Kalpakian

There are two types of historical moments: the easily identifiable and the covert. COVID-19 is one of the easily identifiable. The McCarthy era was somewhat more covert. Reading about one historical moment from another creates an interesting parallel between time and circumstance. Would you rather be trapped within your home or destitute from politics?

The Great Pretenders¬†tackles racisms, communism, basically every strife of the mid-twentieth century. What tends to get lost in an era of unspoken expectations is the realization that their unspoken because their false. It’s a time in society when we expect persons to act unlike themselves or another being. They must walk and talk with the fake air of charisma and charm. They must preserve themselves in every respectable and improper way. There were parties and groups, people to circle within and those to stay away from. Although this may sound somewhat similar to today’s societal expectations. We all know we’ve come a long way from the 50s, just not all the way, not yet.

But even though it wasn’t common, it wasn’t popular, it wasn’t accepted, there were interracial relationships. There were those working to help the blacklisted Hollywood stars find work. There were modern ideals thriving within people. From their smallest actions to their largest decisions, women were entering work forces, couples received divorces, there was an underlying force of change in a time sparred with tradition. And you truly see these forces fight in so many obvious and subtle ways within this story.

Nearly fleshy, these characters evolve within the book. While reading, you have conflicting feelings towards these characters, just as you would all of your friends and family. When they do something stupid or annoying, when they lift you up or induce that toothy-smile you’re always trying to hide, these characters are people. Life alike to have walked through the pages to the 50s.

Speaking of that time warp, to segue back to those historical moments mentioned earlier, the common denominator between all historical moments are how communities, country, neighbors, and everyone in-between comes together. Although this is a book about two people against ‘the world,’ these two people are the community to admire. Week in numbers, but strength in passion. And that’s something we could all take the time to remember these days.

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