Nineteen sixty-nine was the year of Woodstock – a celebration of peace interlaced with music, sex, and drugs. It was the year of the first U.S. draft lottery since 1942, and the Vietnam War was in full swing. Violent sit-ins protesting the war occurred at Harvard, Cornell, Berkeley and other universities across the country. It was the year that two college students and best friends, Peter and Beth, decided to sleep together one night. What do these events have in common? The consequences resulting from actions taken during each event were life changing. Doug Lalli’s first novel simply titled Peter & Beth, relates the story of a young couple catapulted on a journey toward truth and inner peace as a result of their one night together as lovers.
A little more than five years out of college, Peter Granelli is happily “almost” divorced. Working in Manhattan as a copywriter, he has a best friend and confidant in his co-worker Rick. In addition to getting mostly unsolicited advice about love from Rick, Peter relies on his therapy sessions with Rhonda. Is he the same man he was five years ago, or has he perhaps become a better man through life experience and introspection?
When Peter sees Beth getting on a bus one day, his memories of their night together become an obsession, and he wonders if she may have become pregnant. Questions plague him and finally lead to a meeting with his old friend. Will Beth’s revelations ring true? Does she have an ulterior motive? What kind of person has Beth become? More importantly, is Peter man enough to face whatever Beth reveals. If every action has its consequences, what will be the end result of Peter’s reaction to the truth?
Doug Lalli writes this novel with great sensitivity and insight into the intricacies of matters of the heart. There are lessons of love throughout. Accompanying Peter on his quest, the reader witnesses his insecurity stemming from his childhood, his vulnerability, and his fear of being hurt. Yet in his quest to discover his innate ability to love, he finds the courage to plow forward. When Beth’s tale is finally told, we empathize with her solitary struggle and admire her determination and enduring strength, no doubt fueled by unconditional love. Peter is not physically attracted to ill-groomed Beth at first sight but finds himself irresistibly drawn to her inner beauty. It is heartbreaking to watch Peter repeatedly vie with Ralph (a favored cousin) for Mike’s attention, but such is the immensity of a son’s love for his Dad.
Peter & Beth is only 186 pages long, but the plot is believable and significant. The author relies heavily on dialogue rather than descriptive passages to tell his story. I personally would have liked to see more descriptive scenes that would really place the characters in the ‘70s; however, perhaps that would distract the reader from the real “meat” of the story, and this could be just the nostalgic yearning of a 50-something book reviewer. Nothing should deter you from opening this book’s front cover and reading through to its surprising conclusion. A wonderful first novel!