It is in the endings, at the terminus of things, where most memories lie. Deaths are better remembered than births, a bitter cup of coffee is easier recalled than the fine meal that may have preceeded it, and the conclusion of a book impacts us heavier than the intro.
And if this notion is true, than Piazza's terribly thin and ill-conceived ending will leave most of you in a state of disfavor over the author's work.
The final hundred pages, destination in sight, countodown begun, and somewhere My Cold War loses focus. John Delano, our main character wants to go and visit his younger brother, a man he has not seen for eight years. And in undertaking the journey to make the drive back East to see him, Delano decides to write a book about it. So, we, the readers, are drawn into a beautiful web - reading a book about a guy who wants to write a book.
Who among us hasn't made that dreaded trip to reconnect with an exiled relative? There is dread and delight and expectation awaiting us. And yet the author manages to convey none of this. He makes the drive, sees his brother, realized he has turned into some sort of neo-skinhead, and two days later takes his leave. The words fall across the page with dispassionate disregard for those who might read them and for this the author can offer no acceptable apology.
Somewhere in his own head, Piazza must have sensed the decay toward's his book's end. Perhaps he had written himself into his own web, incapable of figuring out an ending based on this journey. What he does do is, upon his return, makes a trip to the house in which he and his brother and family had grown up. He sets the finale here and in his last sentence states, "I would write him again and tell him the whole story." What story? The story he hadn't revealed to the book buyer?
There is a sense of melancholic longing in the writing, in the depiction of the Sixties and the Vietnam war and radicals and marijuna, in images and times long gone. Piazza does this well. The book is, after all, called My Cold War, and most of the book is taken up with Delano's musings - he is the teacher of a class on the Cold War - and certainly the Fifties and Sixties was just such a time.
But in the relationship between Delano and brother Chris, that gentle web we fell into drops us hard and straight onto the ground. As little boys, Chris looked up to his bigger brother, so the scene is set when Chris later goes astray and brother John must rescue him. That is the grand finale we were waiting for, and that is the ending that will forever keep this book from becoming a watercooler-congregating topic of discussion.
Tom Piazza does little more than tease us with a construct even he could not figure out. And for a writer to carry a reader for such a distance and then kick him out of a car travelling at 100 words per hour, is unthinkable.