My Book Review of A Time to Wander by Chera Thompson and NF Johnson

A Time to Wander, Book Cover

A Time to Wander by Chera Thompson and NF Johnson

Sometimes discovering a book is a serendipitous experience. My partner and I recently took a Backroads group hiking trip in Norway. We tend to keep to ourselves, and I don’t go out of my way to introduce myself as a writer unless it comes up naturally. On this particular trip, it did.

Our guide, Evan Thompson, and I got to talking and when I said I was a writer his eyes lit up. His mother, Chera Thompson, had just co-authored and published a novel. Evan is a proud son. His mother had included him in the process. He not only read an early draft of the novel, but he helped choose the title (which is perfect, Evan!). Once he told me about the premise of the book, I knew I had to read A Time to Wander. Thank goodness for ebooks because I downloaded it in Solvorn, Norway, and started reading it that night after our hike.

The book’s description as borrowed from Amazon:

An email exchange between former college lovers takes them back to their college years at Kent State, the 1970s. The Vietnam War is raging. Anti-war rallies hit the breaking point. It was a time of bell bottoms, vinyl, incense, free love, and travel by thumb.

For Kris and Lena, two strangers on two very different paths, a thrown beer bottle shatters the lives they have known, bringing them together by chance. Lena is attracted to Kris and his live-in-the-moment personality. When he invites her to join him on a winter break hitchhiking trip, she kicks aside her uptight attitude and accepts the adventure. The trip is harrowing at times, comical during others, and poignant as Lena and Kris learn about themselves and each other.

The events that shape and seal the fate of their relationship in unpredictable ways are revealed in the authors’ female/male alternating perspectives.

Inspired by true events, A Time to Wander is a magical tale of freedom before the future takes hold.

My Review

A Time to Wander is written from two POVs. One is Kris’s, a young man who is playing the field with the ladies, hoping he won’t be drafted and sent to Vietnam. The other point of view is Lena’s, a “good girl” raised by a family with strong values and expectations. She has plans for her future and they don’t involve taking risks or having one night stands.

Both of these characters are changed forever when their fellow students at Kent State are gunned down for using their voices. The Vietnam War wasn’t their enemy, it was their very own government, and on that fateful day, they were catapulted into adulthood. Their beliefs about life changed, leading Lena and Kris to dissect and explore their choices and preconceived notions.

What struck and hooked me about this story is (sadly) its relevance to today’s government and humanitarian issues, and the challenges young Americans are facing, the dreams they once intended to pursue evolving out of pure necessity. I can imagine a young woman today relating to Lena and saying, “Yes. I am Lena.” Or a young man saying, “I am Kris.”

My secret hope is that Chera Thompson will start publicly speaking to students at this critical point in their lives. She has some wisdom to share with them. No pressure, Chera.

Chera, NF, and Evan, thanks for being you.

P.S. By the end of the trip, I would find out that Evan has a first draft of a book that I hope he will publish someday–the topic is an important one. And secondly, he is an accomplished musician. Check out his music.

About the Authors

Chera Thompson attended Kent State and has BS/Journalism from Ohio University and a MS/Adult Education from State University New York at Buffalo. She held careers in travel and teaching. Her fiction has been published in the Los Angeles Review and was selected as a finalist in the Glimmer Train Short Fiction Contest. Other publication credits include Let’s Have Fun Vol. 2, Queen City Flash, and Have a NYC 3. Most recently her non-fiction pieces were published in Pamela Des Barres’s Let It Bleed: How to Write a Rockin’ Memoir. She lives with her husband on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie and enjoys collecting beach glass.

NF Johnson attended college and worked for Kent State and The Ohio State University. His preferred mode of transportation in the late ’60s and early ’70s was using his thumb. He hitchhiked over 15,000 miles crisscrossing the Midwest. His work has been published in Flash Fiction Press. A Time to Wander is his first novel. He now resides in Dublin, Ohio with his wife and two dogs.

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