by Anita Diamant
Immediately I finished this book, I began to look into the true history of Dogtown and was fascinated to find that the characters and events portrayed by Diamant are based in fact. I found repeated references to these characters (whose real names Diamant has preserved in her novel) and indications that many of the novel’s plot points are inspired by legends which surround the real Dogtown. I was even able to discover current maps and photos of the area which is now a park that can be visited for hiking and picnics.
All the historical facts aside, this is a good novel. The prose is sparse in keeping with the subject matter and perfectly suited to the story at hand. It is rather like a sketch made with a very few strokes of the pencil, spare and powerful.
Because Dogtown is becoming a ghost town, the characters have a rather haunting, or perhaps haunted, quality. As one by one, their neighbors move away, as the houses are one by one abandoned, those who remain live alongside the ghosts of the past and seem to become increasingly transparent themselves.
And haunted is how I felt when I was reading. It isn’t an altogether pleasant feeling but it seems appropriate in this case.
Reviewed, June 2011