Fred’s Way is a coming-of-age novel about a young man torn between going off to college to become an ordained Lutheran pastor or staying home in Chicago to marry his high school sweetheart. It resonates with the agony of someone trying desperately—and often comically—to find his role in a society that refuses to fit his innocent expectations. The central character, Fred Hansen, is at root a mystic, alive to the wonder and glory of life. Like a latter-day Don Quixote, he’s never quite in synch with what others call reality, including the scientific world view of his premed roommate, Jimbo; the commonsense practicality of his girlfriend, Patsy; the argumentative mindset of Catherine Coyle, an attractive classmate with whom he gets entangled; or the spontaneous (and somewhat improvident) habits of Corning, a red-haired art major who lives down the hall.
That is learning how to be you own person — a good person — and how to relate to the people …
Nagel has a firm grip on living a naive life in the early 60’s, while taking the world he has been given by his parents and church, and finding that he doesn’t exactly accept everything he has been taught to believe. And so he begins the journey of a lifetime — one that is endlessly challenging. That is learning how to be your own person — a good person — and how to relate to the people around you. His writing seemed to me fairly simple and elementary at first and it grows in complexity and sophistication along with Fred’s growing persona. That is a very neat trick. Nagel’s descriptions of his characters are sometimes laugh out loud funny and at other times silky smooth and knowing.
I’m of an age to feel deeply the authenticity with which Nagel explores Fred’s world and I recommend it — it is just a good story, but if you lived in that era, it can be truly powerful to find yourself back in it.
I had fun reading "Fred's Way", I wish there were some way to end the book less abruptly, maybe there's a sequel to follow ?