Review: St. Louis man tempted by freedom from family in local author’s novel | book reviews

In 2018, Joe Regenbogen published the nonfiction book “The Boys of Brookdale: Sixteen Amazing Stories From the Second World War Discovered in One Senior-Living Facility.”

Now the retired history teacher (Parkway School District) keeps that career alive by giving the main role in his new novel to a man who teaches history at a high school in West County.

The book is “Longs Peak,” a real-life mountain in Colorado that poses challenges to those who climb it. The teacher is Gordon (whose last name apparently never appears).

He was living in West County with his wife and two children until his marriage hit the rocks. The rockslide carried Gordon out of the house and off to St. Charles County to live with his father, an aging widower.

Gordon can no longer walk to work. Instead, he faces the daily rush-hour traffic tangle. As Regenbogen puts it: “Gordon had experimented with other routes, but there was no quicker course than I-64, the main artery linking downtown St. Louis to its burgeoning western suburbs. Many people still referred to the thoroughfare by its US Highway designation, ‘highway forty,’ or as its older residents like to say, ‘highway farty.’”

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Then, one May day, Gordon gets a phone call from his long-ago Mizzou roommate, Ben. He’s in Colorado, living in a cabin near Longs Peak. Like Gordon, Ben’s marriage has gone sour. Ben invites Gordon to head west for a week or two of good times.

Ben accepts. When he arrives, he falls in love with the mountain scenery, the fresh air, the clear-water lakes. He ponders what life would be like in this so un-St. Louis environment. Then he ponders what life would be like without his wife and children. “What should I do?” he asks himself. “It always came back to the same competing values, family versus freedom. You realize you can’t have it all.”

Atop Longs Peak, Gordon confesses to what soured his marriage and then makes a choice between freedom and family.

What does he choose? To find out, pick up a copy of the well-written and oddly gripping story of a nobody who comes across to readers as somebody special.

Harry Levins of Manchester retired in 2007 as senior writer of the Post-Dispatch.

Saturday, April 9th, 2022

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