We often hear the old adage that history often repeats itself. Occasionally, when threats against the nation happen, like those of the atomic bomb or later the 9/11 tragedy, we see parallels in how these situations are handled, that can be construed in such a way.
Ellen Ruderman has given us a novel of a young woman coming of age during the McCarthy age, when fear of atomic weapons and communism was uppermost in everyone’s minds. In Chasing the Red Car, Ruderman allows us a picture of a time when many freedoms were put to the test, and many accusations were leveled against different groups, especially many of those from the Hollywood crowd, as well as those in academics. We follow Kim Lebow as her family moves from New York and on to the San Fernando Valley, through the turmoil’s of a time that affected the lives of many. Through her upbringing with an outspoken father, and throughout her years and the grief she encounters throughout these times, we watch a young woman expand and grow into a woman strong with political understanding and heavy into education.
Kim seems to have a knack of finding those who believe in her, and who hold their beliefs close. Life was difficult and Kim had more than her fair share of vicissitudes. We follow her through love and loss, and her own pursuits throughout the years, and she maintains her focus throughout. Ruderman also draws parallels with the policies and practices put in place after 9/11, focusing again on executive power and how some of the happenings mirrored earlier years. This is a well-written, and emotional work that draws you into the lives of those most affected.
Ruderman does a wonderful job of creating characters of honor and standing. They have both their strengths and their flaws, and you come to care about them through her prose. She captures much of what we have heard and seen during the McCarthy era, the meetings and trials of the times. We see much of the devastation that happens to the families accused, even with no proof. Jobs were lost to suspicions, and many lives were changed.
She continues with her story bringing it up to the more recent present with her character continuing to grow and evolve within the political arena. She draws the correlation of power between the then and now, and the concerns and lives of families again affected.
If you like history and are interested in this period of time when upheaval was the order of the day, you will enjoy this work. The history is interesting and the story makes it all more personal. This would be a great book for a reading club, with a look at a view from the outside — from a young girl’s point of view.
Chasing the Red Car is an in-depth look at the politics of the times, and how different lives were affected in different ways, depending on your beliefs.