Loving Women

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Bored with high school and with Brooklyn, Michael Devlin decides to follow a neighborhood tradition and enlist in the United States Navy. With the completion of his initial training, he finds himself stationed at a naval air station in Pensacola, Florida, a world completely foreign to him. There he encounters strange music, segregation, intimidation, miscegenation, and opportunities for sexual abandon which not only are alien to his background but also represent a positive threat to his psychological and physical well-being.

LOVING WOMEN, however, is far more than yet another coming-of-age novel in the fashion of SONG OF THE RED RUBY or ONIONHEAD. Hamill has chosen to intersperse autobiographical statements of various characters within the body of the work--statements which not only provide an opportunity for the author to deepen the reader’s understanding of the character’s motivations than is possible in the traditional dialogue format but also establish the historical immediacy of the period. Thus, the reader learns that the frozen hell of the retreat from the Chosen Reservoir in Korea transformed Robert Bolden into a man determined not to accept the second-class status his racial background dictated, that even an apparent villain such as Wendell “Red” Cannon was not evil from birth, and that Eden Santana’s difficulties with the realities of American life had their roots deep in the nineteenth century.

It is clear, from almost the first page, that LOVING WOMEN will not be a novel in which truth and justice triumph as the protagonists stroll gently off into the sunset. Indeed, this novel is replete with tragedy and pathos rendered in such a poignant and convincing manner as to produce psychic discomfort in those who delve into its depths. Yet, despite the potential for reader malaise, this is a compelling and riveting look at a time and an environment which continues to affect contemporary values and mores to a degree which is all too often overlooked in this presumably enlightened age.