Far from her adolescence in Hart, Michigan or the Interlochen Center of Fine Arts outside Traverse City, Susan DeFreitas awaits release of her first novel slated for November 1, 2016. Listen close to hear the sap of her youth flowing up her Michigan forest roots to the canopy of the Pacific Northwest.
“A spacious old maple, overlooking a creek. She’d told Dyson about it, how she used to sit beneath that tree. How sometimes a troop of turkeys or even a red fox would stroll right past, oblivious of her presence. They’d been camping that night on Mount Hood, just past Government Camp, with those big Doug firs spread out around them like a council of elders, listening. That happens, he said, when you get to know a place. It stops being afraid of you.” – Susan DeFreitas from HOT SEASON
HOT SEASON the debut novel of Susan DeFreitas published by Harvard Square Editions exudes the scent of a college couch cushion in a seedy part of town that’s seen considerable action, but just wants to find home. The principals sitting upon it are a trio of college girls (Katie, Rell & Jenna) all heading West like Twain’s Huck Finn to dodge civilization. They connect on the necessity of splitting rent to cut costs while attending a pricey Deep Canyon College in Arizona.
For these liberal environmentalists the only football game in town drawing a mob is protesting the planned development of the Greene River. Rell and Katie want to halt the early 2000s suburban sprawl amid the Patriot Act hysteria after the fall of the twin towers. Word of the FBI infiltrating campus to ferret out the Eco-terrorist plots causes the young women to take many a sideways glance at the fellows around them, but it does little to halt their sexual appetites when in view of a sweat-sheened abdomen or a barefoot street performer balancing a bowling pin on his blackened big toe.
Meanwhile the fifty-year-old protest celebrity and Deep Canyon alumnus, Dyson Lathe, with street cred from blowing a dam before the trio left diapers, is under-developed as a character in this novel. This man-child with an environmental conscience sucks in young girls like the vacuum bearing his first name and like a lathe he spins their supple wood-grained minds in his hands to shape them toward protest and to be his next lover.
Lathe spends most of the novel on the lam while Jenna and Katie entangle their legs around the same boy in the world’s oldest kind of competition. Despite the narrative drive of answering how much will each woman will risk to save a river or the mountains or each other, their greatest desire searches for home, the place where they will fit.
Could home call the girls from a job offer in her trained career, a high school sweetheart, a new fling, an Iowa park, burning bulldozers, planting trees in Canada, detonating dams, a desert town, dropping out, the arms of a woman? HOT SEASON will leave the readers wondering long past the epilogue, but it will let them sit with patience until they figure it out. After all, college kids on a porch couch, playing music, drinking beer, smoking dope, busting buttons with lust can stay out until dawn. Those who join them may just see the sun rise.
DeFreitas oscillates between elegant description and coarse dialog, between cool river grove shade and damning desert sunshine. From the unforgiving arid land that baked it, HOT SEASON prospers in the heat.