Review: my visit to Soda Springs

by Thomas E. Drabek, Ph.D.
(Denver, CO)

My recent visit to Soda Springs was a delight! Through Terry Marshall’s characters, I was reminded of how racial hatred can be manifested in most communities—often with a lack of awareness that is maddening.

While Soda Springs is a fictional Colorado community, it’s cleavages are reinforced by racial “understandings” and language that differ little from what Rick Sanders gets a taste of during a brief visit to Alabama during the early 1960’s. Rick is Marshall’s main character, a Cornell University senior whose family needs him home, at least for the summer.

As we follow Rick’s “coming of age” in Soda Springs, Marshall masterfully leads us from one sexual encounter to another with all the awkwardness, naiveté, and youthful desire that has challenged past generations. All of this develops within a skillfully constructed context wherein two pillars of most communities—high school football and local churches—become intertwined in some surprising ways.

As the sexual mores and behaviors of both adults and other youth in the community unfold in a series of escapades, we can’t help but wonder who will gain Rick’s final commitment. And how will the latent conflicts be resolved as things also heat up there. This is one I had a hard time putting down until the last page was turned.

A toot to enjoy; a treasure to ponder; a useful springboard for some serious discussion of several topics ranging from the language of hate, strategies for community change, expectations about love, sex, and marriage; inherent complexities in immigration reform; and the economic realities of poverty and their costs for the poor. A must read!

Thomas E. Drabek, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, University of Denver

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