Several years have passed since I've had the opportunity of reading a novel that kept me so enraptured for days on end. A novel peopled with characters much like ourselves or persons we've known at different stages of our lives. Reading David Nicholls' novel "ONE DAY" so thoroughly immersed me in the lives and emotions of people much like myself that it took me days after reading it to come up for air. And now that I've just read this novel "ALL OUR YESTERDAYS", I am no less overawed at what Erik Tarloff was able to masterfully accomplish. That is, crafting a novel that, ever so subtly --- from the time of 19 year old Zeke Stern first meeting 18 year old Molly Hilliard (both students at the University of California-Berkeley) at a house party both Zeke and his childhood buddy Stan Pilnik had in their Berkeley apartment in October 1968 --- captures the essence and spirit of the generation that came of age during the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. (The party had been Stan's idea and a way for him to assert his independence from the smothering hold his parents in Los Angeles had had on him.)
"ALL OUR YESTERDAYS" takes the reader from 1968 to 2014. Each chapter has a title that identifies the year or period of the characters' lives, thus allowing the reader to see how their lives are played out through the years. The novel is also very dialogue-driven, which I like a lot. Novels that are too heavily slanted toward the narrative voice can be offputting at times. Especially for me because I, as a reader, want to see and experience what the characters in the novel are saying, doing, and thinking. That is what excites me about "ALL OUR YESTERDAYS." You feel that you're in the midst of REAL PEOPLE in a very intimate way and the effect is not unlike finding yourself, the reader, as "the ghost in the novel." And what has special meaning for me: I could relate to the ups and downs, the shifting social and political beliefs, attitudes and mores of the major characters (Zeke & Molly, Stan, Liam, Melanie, and Corin the vainglorious leftist revolutionary and egoist) as someone who was born shortly after President Kennedy was assassinated and remembers in varying degrees, the major events, fads, and fashions of the late 20th century.
Many times as I read through this novel I laughed, guffawed, despaired and shuddered when tragedies arose, and sometimes held my breath as the main characters grew, met challenges, and matured. For any reader who wants to read a novel that lives and breathes from the first page, you won't go wrong with "ALL OUR YESTERDAYS."