Diane Donovan

Byron’s Lane
Wallace Rogers
Langdon Street Press
9781626521315    $15.99     www.byronslane.com

Byron’s Lane in many ways reflects the dilemmas of middle age and life itself, and is centered around the dilemmas of Adams as seen through the eyes of his friend Tom.  Adams has spent his lifetime using democratic principles at home and abroad to improve people’s lives – but middle age brings with it regret, re-assessment of the principals of The American Dream, and the fading of political and personal dreams in the 21st century.

Time has moved on, leaving Adams and his generation’s ideals behind…or has it?

Readers who enjoy novels centered on aging, reflection, revelation and change will find Byron’s Lane differs from many in that it holds a satisfying blend of personal and political reflection. Being neither one nor the other, this philosophical process is all about different levels of change in the existence of an American white suburban middle class male who, until now, has largely viewed his life’s goals and objectives as successes.

The character of Tom Walker is not only well drawn, it provides a sense of distance and objectivity as Tom is drawn to help his friend heal emotionally from his experiences in Iraq. This character is a central, necessary component of Byron’s Lane, serving as both a pivot point for change and as a mirror for different perspectives on past events. Tom also serves as a witness for events that will unfold to their logical conclusion despite the efforts of both protagonists.

There’s much psychological depth to Adams’s story which is rare in most novels, moving neatly beyond surface experiences to analyze engrained habits, belief systems, and how they permeate both personal and political worlds: “Adams was never the self-confident rebel, the Byronic hero, he projected.  He was a non-threatening non-conformist who craved acceptance.  Fear of rejection – which most of us learn to rationalize away or live with – was the principal motivator in Adams’s life.  It served him well and it served him badly.  He had never lost an election.  The possibility that he could lose one made him an outstanding campaigner and an effective politician, but that same fear caused him to avoid a woman’s total immersion into his life, or his into hers.”

Will Adams take the steps necessary to accept romance, new directions and new possibilities in his life? As friend Tom finds, his probes lead to new, startling revelations about his friend’s involvement in revenge killings in Iraq, and turn over old, buried experiences perhaps best left forgotten, he discovers that events and lessons learned which fell neatly into place on Byron’s Lane decades ago no longer fit so well.  Cascading events are leading to a dangerous collision between past and present that will challenge Adams’ perspective of not just himself, but this brave new world that’s evolving without him and his contemporaries.

Is the American Dream still alive and well for the Boomer generation – or has it faded?

Byron’s Lane is a powerful novel about finding one’s place in the world – over and over again. You could almost call it a ‘coming of age’ novel, centered around the middle years. It’s all about choices both past and present – and it offers a powerful conclusion firmly linking politics and social change with personal lives. Perhaps this is the strongest facet of Byron’s Lane …not totally unexpected, since the author is himself a former Wisconsin mayor.

Diane Donovan
e-book Reviewer, MBR (Midwest Book Review)