S. Montana Katz
Guernica World Editions (2020)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (09/2020)
“Side Effects,” by S. Montana Katz, is a work of historical fiction that follows a family through the baby-boom era and several decades, and its connection to the eventual apocalypse. This dynamic family and their story spans different cities and time-frames, and the author shows the family’s evolution through culture, music, fashion, fads, and more. With this family, you see how the social, political, and economic forces shaped it, and how the family shaped those constructs as well.
As the author is a psychoanalyst, you get a sense of the deeper psychological impact that this family has on the world, and vice-versa. Katz has a marvelous way of intertwining history, character, place, and fiction. She is a talented writer who puts her stamp on the baby boom generation in a way that is interesting to learn, eclectic, easy to understand, and most of all, entertaining. Her passage of comparing San Francisco to Mecca is enough to hook you. You’re in for an emotional ride. But don’t think that the author sugar-coats the baby boom generation. There are some hard realities here too; some of them eye-opening.
In a way, this book reminded me of Forrest Gump and its kaleidoscope of historic and cultural events as seen through the prism of different characters. Katz is obviously fond of this quirky family, and she is skilled at illustrating what their family life is like and how it transforms through various moves from the east coast to the west coast, and how adaptable (or not so) it is to change. You’ll get a sense of realism, humor, wisdom, and what social justice warriors were all about before it became a modern-day label.
Another strength Katz has as a writer is her descriptions of people, places, and events. She puts you there front and center. Her imagery is beautiful, her turn of phrase poetic, and her sense of time and place is masterful. You’ll find yourself relating to this family, and you may find yourself or your own family echoed in some of the situations. How it all builds toward the apocalypse is interesting, and you have to keep reading to see what it all means.