A Year in the Company of Freaks Book Review & Giveaway

I know that I had the awkward experience of living with strangers for (almost) a year once.  That was as a freshman in college--and I, not only survived; but, I gained some lifelong friends from the experience.  (Though, I will admit, those first few months were tough to navigate!)   When I had the opportunity to read and review A Year in the Company of Freaks, the offer hooked me by the title.  What did I think of this coming of age story from author, Teresa Neumann?  I am pleased to share my review--and I am so excited to offer a reader the chance to win a copy of the book in the book tour giveaway at the end of my post!

Book Title: A Year in the Company of Freaks by Teresa Neumann
Category: Adult Fiction, 515 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author or publisher.  All opinions are my own.

About the Book

It's 1972 and a seismic clash-of-cultures is rattling northern California. In the redneck town of Trinity Springs, rumors of hippies migrating up from San Francisco have residents bracing for an invasion. When Italian-American hometown boy and Berkeley graduate Sid Jackson is busted for growing pot on his deceased parents' farm, locals suspect the assault has begun. Will a crazy deferral program devised by the sheriff keep Sid out of prison? Or will a house full of eccentric strangers, a passionate love interest, and demons from his past be his undoing?

A "disarmingly appealing" tale of discrimination, transformation and restoration, Freaks is bursting with intrigue, drama, comic relief and romance. Reviewers agree this five-star, coming-of-age classic "very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times." 

                 My Review

Readers will not want to put A Year in the Company of Freaks down.  Yes.  I nearly read a 515 page book in one sitting.    I loved Otis and Pearlie--so, I think "meeting" them first in the book and getting pulled into the small town mentality of the time and also into their hopes and love for Sid simply had me hooked by page 3 or so.  When I received the book and saw the page count--I wasn't sure how an author could successfully fill that many pages with just a year in the life of 5 strangers.   Not only did she tell a wonderful story--but, she made the pages float by!  At the end of every chapter, I found myself looking even more forward to the next chapter--and I wasn't ready to leave the characters at the end.

A Year in the Company of Freaks is truly a coming of age story.  I did not like Sid's character at the beginning.  He was childish, immature--and carrying a potentially, destructive chip on his shoulder.  Within the first 50 or so pages, the author began to show a glimpse or two of a different side of Sid--the one that Pearlie and Otis knew was there--and she began to slowly allow him to grow and learn--and to find himself.  For himself.  The strangers, who truly became Sid's family, went through some coming of age challenges throughout the story as well.    The author did a great job developing the characters and the values of their relationships throughout the book.  Nothing was instantaneous or superficial.   It was a very gradual, real, coming of age story.

Don't let the "historical fiction" label sway you!   When I think of historical fiction, I think of the Civil War or even Victorian England.  I was a child in the seventies.  At that time, I lived in a very (very, very) rural part of Southern Ohio.  I was young--so when my military, crew cut sporting grandfather talked about the "hippies" that he encountered at the auto repair shop that he owned--with my grandma's displeased, descriptions of their "long, dirty hair" and "ratty, old clothes" and drug use--the "hippie" term was frightening to me!   I think I could easily identify with the fear that surrounded Sid and his band of "freaks" in their small town.  However, I could also remember that some of those "hippies" were the first to offer help if my grandpa needed something.  Sometimes, even without his asking.    This is really a human nature story--focusing on kids growing up, dealing with fears, misconceptions, and judgemental minds during a time in our fairly recent history.

Would I recommend A Year in the Company of Freaks?  First of all, committing to a 500+ page book is a rare occurrence for me.  It is even more rare that I actually read that entire 500+ page book without finding myself skimming through the blah-blah-blahs.  This book didn't have blah-blah-blahs!  I didn't want to miss anything--so I actually read every word--and I need to look into reading other books from this author.  I loved getting to know the characters and watching them grow and change as relationships and bonds formed.  This was a wonderful book to remind us about "judging a book by its cover"--and about forgiveness and the healing power of mistakes.  It is also a great novel to share a part of our history that is often overlooked.  I highly recommend it to the generations of the 70's--including those hippies (and non-hippies) of the decade.  I think this is a book that most adults  would appreciate and enjoy.  It has a comfortable, memoir-like feel--which I love--and characters that readers simply won't want to leave.  

Praise for “A Year in the Company of Freaks”

“This coming of age story will draw the reader right in. Teresa Neumann demonstrates how much she values relationships in her writing … a precious skill. I held my breath all the way through to the final few pages. Five stars!” — The San Francisco Book Review

“As it relates to the complicated clash of culture and counterculture, Freaks acts as an authentic, strongly Seventies book. Northern California works as a strong presence in the novel that is vivid and omnipresent, but never overwhelming. Sure to intrigue and entertain, Freaks will have its digs in you before you realize how involved you’ve become.” — The Manhattan Book Review

To read more reviews, please visit Teresa Neumann's page in iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book

Meet the Author

Author of highly-acclaimed "A Year in the Company of Freaks," Teresa was raised in a large Midwest family and now lives in Oregon. She is also the author of "Bianca's Vineyard," and its sequel, "Domenico's Table." Both books are based on the true stories of her husband's Italian family in Tuscany. In addition to enjoying family, writing, reading, meeting her readers, wine tasting, traveling, and all things Italian, Teresa loves playing the fiddle with other musicians.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

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