Foreword Reviews

Nothing to Declare

In Richard M. Ravin’s novel Nothing to Declare, the bonds and boundaries of a friendship are tested by the swirling counterculture of the 1970s.

When Jesse and Marty met in college, Jesse was an amiable, malleable art student; Marty was a wild hippie dropout who was never short of illegal schemes, and who intrigued everyone he met. He was the guy who got the girls—including the girls Jesse was interested in. An uncomfortable love triangle resulted.

Twenty years later, Jesse is summoned to collect Marty’s remains, though he hasn’t seen his friend in years. The mysterious request, coupled with the dark pull of Marty’s charisma, leads Jesse to recall the psychedelic seventies. His are a tangle of uncomfortable memories; he sorts through all that Marty left behind, leading up to a final reckoning with Marty’s request. He works to lay old memories to rest and develop renewed appreciation for who he’s become.

Here, characters are enlivened and defined by single acts, as when Jesse helps a pretty protestor who’s distributing fliers, and she asks whether “a middle-class kid like him should be taking a job that could belong to a member of the working class.” When Marty narrates, his thoughts come in fast, strobe-light bursts, and his observations are exuberant about the freedoms available to him. Both he and Jesse are prone to imaginative language, as when merengue music is characterized as having “a rhythm section like a howling jungle.” Some of their leaps are abrupt, but they are always worth following.

Nothing to Declare is a rewarding novel that evokes and illuminates the grime and glory of the 1970s.

Reviewed by Susan Waggoner

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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