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  • Writer's pictureCharles Arrowsmith

Review: Thorn Tree by Max Ludington (LA Times)



The long shadow of the 1960s looms over “Thorn Tree,” a sprawling second novel by Brooklyn-based author Max Ludington. Set largely in Los Angeles in 2017, the book concerns two baby boomers dealing with the fallout from their countercultural pasts. It’s a novel of regrets and reckonings, traumas repressed and returning. Commentary on the allure of dangerous subcultures, combined with fleeting references to the Trump administration, suggests that the conflicts and divisions of the 1960s remain, awaiting a moment to reemerge.


The “Thorn Tree” of the title is a gigantic figurative sculpture welded in the Mojave Desert in the mid-1970s by a young man named Daniel. His art is the product of an existential crisis sparked by the mysterious death of his girlfriend, Rachel, as well as a stint in prison for LSD possession. On his release, Daniel rediscovers his creative purpose just as his outlook reaches a nadir. The work that results brings him art-world fame, followed a few years later by national notoriety when he decides to literally blow it all up.


For the review in full, visit The Los Angeles Times.

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