Dakota Winters
by Barbash, Tom

Returning to his childhood home in 1979 New York's famed Dakota apartments, former Peace Corps volunteer Anton Winter is swept up in a raucous celebrity effort to reignite his late-night host father's stalled career.

*Starred Review* The punning title of Barbash's fleet-footed novel is a key to the wit propelling this brain-whirring tale of the pitiless spotlight of fame, hard-won comebacks, and father-son dynamics. The Dakota depicted here is not a western state but, rather, the legendary New York City apartment building, home to such stars as Lauren Bacall and Boris Karloff, and, in Barbash's imaginative variation, the quick-witted Winter family. Buddy Winter was a beloved TV talk-show host until he went to pieces on the air. Anton Winter, the elder of Buddy's two sons, narrates with Salingeresque concision and ruefulness. Back home in late 1979, after a Peace Corps stint and a grim bout with malaria, Anton is drawn into his father's quest for a new show. As he reluctantly considers how much Buddy relies on him and offers delectable behind-the-scenes talk-show revelations, Anton also becomes an agent for creative renewal for their friend and neighbor John Lennon. Drolly observant, Anton describes the Lennon fans swarming the Dakota, the Lake Placid Winter Olympics, his astute mother's part in Ted Kennedy's presidential campaign, the simultaneous rise of crime and gentrification, a wild sea adventure with John, and Lennon's tragic murder. Punctuated by clever dialogue and crisp social critiques, Barbash's incisive, funny, and poignant portrait of talented people and a city in flux illuminates the risks of celebrity and the struggle to become one's true self. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

It's 1980, and a young man is reckoning with his famous father's breakdown with a little help from his New York City neighbor John Lennon. If you know anything about Lennon and 1980, you already know the ending of Barbash's second novel (Stay Up With Me, 2013, etc.). But that knowledge only heightens the bittersweet, nostalgic mood that Barbash ably conjures here; the book is suffused with warm memories of punk clubs, the "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic hockey team, young romance, and the A-list residents at the storied Dakota apartments. The narrator, Anton, is the son of Buddy Winter, a talk show host in the Tom Snyder/Dick Cavett vein who scorched his reputation by having an on-air meltdown and storming off the set. Buddy is considering his options for a comeback (PBS? A big-three network? A newfangled cable channel?), and Anton is eager to assist, though ultimately the novel is concerned with how much we need to escape our parents' shadows. Anton's guide for managing that i s Lennon, the fellow Dakota resident and former Beatle with whom he forms an unlikely friendship. Their scenes together provide the novel's most charming moments, as Anton gives Lennon sailing lessons off Cold Spring Harbor and serves as a sounding board as he writes songs in Bermuda. Barbash convincingly imagines Lennon's easy, sardonic humor while he helps the young man learn how to be confident without being star-struck. The downside is that those scenes throw the rest of the narrative a bit off-balance. Anton's siblings and love interests rarely feel like more than casual walk-on roles; Anton's mother, stumping for Ted Kennedy's failed presidential bid, plays only a slightly more substantial one. Pleasurably endearing for anybody with a soft spot for pop culture, Annie Hall-era Manhattan, and 20-somethingdom at its most freewheeling. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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