2006: The Chautauqua
A Reckoning With Destiny
By Joyce Mucci
I have acquired numerous political books in my adult life ranging from commentary on world affairs to biographies of political and cultural icons. Absent from my library though are novelsespecially novels that would wrap my political world view around characters that I would want to invite home for a Sunday dinner. That is until now.
2006: The Chautauqua Rising has changed all that.
2006 is author Jack Cashill's first novel. Known for his political commentary and documentaries, Cashill has successfully woven a believable futuristic political scenario into a first-rate thriller. The hero, T.J. Conlon, is roused from his day to day existence with the news of his father's mysterious death. Conlon, at this juncture in his life, is settled in a job as sports editor for the Boston Globe. He has, for the most part, coasted through life with little more thought than it takes to make a selection on a menu. His father's demise, however, brings T.J. back to his familial roots in Western New York and face to face with Americans who know first hand what price the loss of liberty extracts from the human soul.
As the story unfolds, T.J. is swept reluctantly into a world of government intrusion and political intrigue. His internal struggle to make sense of his father's death, his own life choices, and the stinging consequences of those choices are inexorably entwined with the external forces that now challenge Conlon's perception of life. Even in death, T.J.'s father is still reassuring him that he can be more than he thinks he can be. And the circle of friends and patriots that his father nurtured in Chautauqua County require from T.J. Conlon the same high standard his father set for him. For T.J., this is far more than he thinks he can deliver.
TJ Conlon is something of an archetype. He has, up to this point, enjoyed the birthright of an American: freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly among others. T.J. had come to assume that these liberties would always be there. In this way, he is not unlike many Americans who chuckle when they hear stories of nefarious actions on the part of the government, "Surely you jest!" or "The government is our friend," they say. Any inference that things are other than what they should be is met with suspicion.
However, the reluctant hero in 2006 is reminded that at the very foundation of American freedom is sacrifice. Amid his internal struggle to make sense of his father's death and his own political awakening young Conlon meets the woman who would reveal to him the reality of such sacrifice. Siona, by name, has lived a life best described as an object lesson in the gritty reality of what it means to fight for what is right, good and proper despite the costs. Her life history stands in stark contrast to T.J.'s. Marriage, a son, divorce and the subsequent removal of her child by government officials have molded this strong young woman into someone who is unafraid of the future. She is, quite simply, someone to be reckoned with. One who has little inclination or patience to sit idly by doing nothing. Through their providential meeting Siona--and the cast of characters who share Siona's resolve--all work together to bring Conlon to political maturity.
And ultimately to his destiny.
This is why 2006 is such an excellent tale of destiny--the destinies of two people who share a vision far larger than themselves and ultimately a commitment to life, family and justice. The story also brings to life the solidarity found in a community of believers whose faith in justice crosses the lines of religious belief. And isn't that what America is all about?
Cashill has expertly drawn on the historical background of western New York (the birthplace of many radical and religious movements) and the brave, prophetic words of our forefathers to create a highly credible and hopeful future. . In fact, the characters rely on the founding documents as a blueprint for their resistance, and the reader comes to see why America was good then and why America will be good in the future.
There are times when we all need to be reminded that America had a small beginning but a great and still unrealized destiny. Today is one of them.
Joyce Mucci has been published in the Kansas City Star, MetroVoice and in e-zines such as The New Australian, Ether Zone and Rightgrrl where she is an Advisory Board Member.
Other stories by this author: (open in a new window)
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