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Frequent Contributor
Posts: 108
Registered: ‎11-24-2008
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Re: Final Thoughts

My overall impression about Sag Harbor, I think it was good read. I enjoyed how the chapters were set up through out the book. It was a different style but I thought it was good. I would recommend this to my friends and family. I liked Benji's character since it was based around his life as a teenager. I think Benji learned alot about his friends and family. I think in the end he learned how to form his own opinions.
Inspired Scribe
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006

Re: Final Thoughts

This is by far my absolute favorite First Look discussion..


I was familiar with earlier novels by Colson Whitehead, and I brought with me certain expectations. Because “Sag Harbor” is a major departure for him, I prepared myself for disappointment.


Initially, I worried that a prolonged three-month-long, unsupervised summer camp for teenage boys wouldn’t offer enough drama; I wasn't looking forward to a Young Adult reading experience.


Imagine my surprise when sunny, carefree days slowly darkened with clouds and emotional thunderstorms.  Each chapter focused on specific moods of Benji’s summer; these moods build upon each other; and the overall structure of emotional layers began to intrigue me.


Although the boys are realistically adolescent, the author’s point of view is that of an adult, and with it came a certain amount of adult wisdom…


The underlying theme of coming-of-age moral dilemmas reminded me of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies". Golding's theme is that young boys, left to their own devices, will eventually sink to the lowest common denominator... an atavistic return to their basest instincts.


Although the boys summer in "Sag Harbor", a kind of paradise, they are unsupervised for long stretches of time. They are ignored by adults whose duty is to care for them. They suffer serious food shortage, they ignore basic health care... like going to the hospital to care for serious BB gun shot wounds. Some of Ben's friends, as well as Reggie, resort to self-destructive behavior. Ben alludes briefly to their eventual sad adult fates.


Although "Sag Harbor" starts off as paradise, we get a very sharp and biting view of its underbelly. Vacationers fake their civilized, professional facades in public, only to reveal their inner demons in the privacy of their expensive summer cottages.


My final thoughts on “Sag Harbor” is that it has been a very satisfying reading experience. My review are five-glowing summer stars. 



rkubie wrote:


Can you compare Sag Harbor to other novels you've read about growing up?



"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Distinguished Wordsmith
Posts: 529
Registered: ‎11-05-2006
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Re: Final Thoughts

I must agree with the many of you who have counted Sag Harbor as one of the best first reads we have had the opportunity to read.


It was humorous as well as thought provoking.  The story took a sharp, unexpected turn for me when I learned of Benji's family problems.  All the more heart wrenching because he had become so likeable.  I really wanted his life to be happy go lucky.


Melanie was the character I liked the least because she was fast and cold hearted.  I really couldn't believe she had remembered all that about Benji so I distrusted her.


Favorite minor character was

'rascally" Uncle Nelson.  A fun guy not really appreciated by the "proper" family from which he came.


"I think of a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader

"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Posts: 311
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Final Thoughts

I am certainly in agreement with those who've stated that Sag Harbor is a great book -humorous, heartwrenching, coming of age, and a time capsule, of sorts- and that the discussion on First Look was very thought provoking, too.


I really enjoyed reading about Benji & his life. I was 17 in 1985 and grew up on L.I. & many of the local and pop culture references brought back some of my own memories - especially those about the L.I.E., roller rinks, the song "Roxanne," the emergence of frozen yogurt shops, the "New Coke" tragedy of '85 (I viewed that as a tragedy too!), & Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam.


Posts: 4
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book.  It was different from most of the books I pick to read and it showed me a new world. 
Inspired Contributor
Posts: 71
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this book also. I wasnt sure that I would after reading the first chapter. I think Benji really matured during the summer and I liked following this transition. 
Posts: 19
Registered: ‎02-10-2009

Re: Final Thoughts

Being my first book club ever and to give my feelings about this book is bringing out my shyness toward being open about my opinions...(something I'm working on).


I just finished reading this book and I loved it! I felt my emotions about Benji and of my own similar experiences tied up into the many rollercoaster rides I felt while reading. 


I plan to read it again...I always do this with most every book and find so much more each time.

While I was reading, I this a book about color, adolescents and growing up in a dual world that we create in order to cope and be accepted in both worlds? Also, parents have to work, regardless of how ideal this may not be for the adolescents left alone to find something to do, (good or bad).

Is this then an issue that we need to worry about? Is their circumstances any different then the majority of most working parents?


Anyway, it gives me something to think about until I read it again.

If my review isn't well written, I apologize. This is my first time. I am disabled and very isolated, and I read alot and decided to be proactive and join a book club with others with the same interests. 

My thought process isn't as quick, so I don't always give great insights, and glowing reviews but only because I have difficulty putting my thoughts on paper as well as orally. 


So, again let me say I loved the book and will read it again and thank you so much for allowing  me to be a part of this book club.


Thank You also to Colson Whitehead for the great read. I have already recommended your book to others I know who love to read.:smileyvery-happy:


Take Care,

Book Club Reader


Posts: 206
Registered: ‎11-27-2006
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Re: Final Thoughts

Thayer wrote:
While I really liked this book-it is my favorite first look so far-I think it would not have been quite as enjoyable to me without this forum. Many issues were raised in this book, such as....race, family dynamics and being a teenager in general. As usual, the discussions are so informative, enlightening and educational due to the melting pot of individuals and opinions represented. I learn things that I might never without the voice of so many diverse individuals. Thank you Barnes and Noble for making this wonderful program available to all!

This is my first book through First Look and I enjoyed it a lot.  I agree with Thayer, I always get more out of a book with thoughts and comments from others (the reason I'm in two book clubs).  Mr.  Whitehead was able to make this a story about Ben's summer and his awarenesses/growth during that time, but in addition to this Sag Harbor has many levels to it and many themes that several of you have pointed out.  Working as a teacher in a suburban school district in the Midwest, I see race issues all of the time.  Mr.  Whitehead has re-opened my eyes to the subtle ways race influences young people and who they become.


I think Reggie would have been my favorite minor character.  These brothers had a special bond and their personalities complimented and brought balance to their lives.


Inspired Contributor
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎01-26-2009

Re: Final Thoughts

Sag Harbor ended up being a good book. It definitely wasn't a book I would have picked off the shelf. When I first started it, I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish it. I wasn't comfortable with Colson's way of seemed disjointed and scattered. But as I went along, I fell for the characters. I felt their pain...and I felt angry FOR them and they way they lived.  In the end, I couldn't put the book down. I was sad that it was ending...that Benji was going back to the city...and how would the following years play out in his life - could be a good sequel, Colson!


I'm not sure about my favorite minor character...there were so many that were in turn funny and aggravating. Maybe NP, just because he was so "out there" in his tales!


I think that this book shows the turning point for Benji...the exact time in his life where he sees the difference between childhood and adulthood, and how he will fit with all of it.



Posts: 13
Registered: ‎11-26-2008

Re: Final Thoughts

Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel. It felt like a breath of fresh air from other books on First Look. Colson Whitehead definitely knows how to take a person back to their younger years. In the novel, he showed that he is a talented, compassionate author. After reading the book, I went on to purchase previous novels by Mr. Whitehead.
We read to know we are not alone.
- C.S. Lewis
Inspired Correspondent
Posts: 231
Registered: ‎01-08-2007
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Re: Final Thoughts

I liked the fact that the book opened my horizons. I had no idea this colong of black people lived in Sag Harbor. The book was difficult to connect with because the past and present were intertwined. I found myself wondering how he got from here to there.


I was tryly appalled by the boys being alone all week. The fact that they didn't get into more trouble is a tribute to their good sense. 


The parents troulbled me. I must say, I know white and black people who fit this mold, but I still don't understand how women, particularly women with careers can just take it. Equally, I don't understand why they care so little about their children. I find child abuse disgusting. I couldn't relate to the father at all and the mother made me angry. 


All in all, it was an interesting read.

Frequent Contributor
Posts: 115
Registered: ‎12-25-2007
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Re: Final Thoughts

Although, due to life, I did not have much of a chance to participate in the discussion after the first week or two, I did enjoy Sag Harbor. Parts of it reminded me of my childhood, parts of it were very far removed from my childhood but I could relate to the book. My favorite character was Benji who I believe was very much influenced by his private school environment but was also influenced by his Sag Harbor environment. Benji, as with all young teens, seemed "on the edge" most of the book and did not appear at times to know which world he belonged in.


My favorite minor character was Martine and I have absolutely no idea why he struck a chord with me.

This book was not something I would pick off the shelf for me either but really brought back memories of our family vacations at a resort in Northern California...before family resorts became a thing of the past.

Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there - John Wooden
Posts: 148
Registered: ‎12-28-2006
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Re: Final Thoughts

I so agree regarding the characters.  It's why this would make such a good book club book.  I would never have picked this up - and had to start it over after Chapter 2 - but then the boys lives caught me.  There was no looking back and I was sad when Sag Harbor was finished.


The book has stayed with me longer than I expected.


Thanks for the experience.





fifenhorn wrote:

Sag Harbor ended up being a good book. It definitely wasn't a book I would have picked off the shelf. When I first started it, I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish it. I wasn't comfortable with Colson's way of seemed disjointed and scattered. But as I went along, I fell for the characters. I felt their pain...and I felt angry FOR them and they way they lived.  In the end, I couldn't put the book down. I was sad that it was ending...that Benji was going back to the city...and how would the following years play out in his life - could be a good sequel, Colson!




Posts: 12
Registered: ‎02-04-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

Sag Harbor isn't a book I would typically have chosen to read so glad I had the opportunity to do so.  It is truly a coming of age story during the 1980's.  The story struck a chord with me, because even though I was 26 at the time versus Benji's 14, his experiences brought back many memories from the period of time, plus when I was his age.   The music, the special handshakes, ditching your best friend for a date, trying to impress the opposite sex, sibling rivaly, and of course trying to fit in.  These are all things I did at that age.


It was interesting, humorous, thougth provoking  and even heart breaking at times, but overall I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it.  


I'm only sorry I didn't have enough time to participate more.  As far as that's concerned I was a dismal failure and apologize for that. I probably won't request another first look book because I don't have the time to put into it.  I did appreciate getting to read all the responses because they were food for thought.  


Thank you to everyone involved.

Posts: 17
Registered: ‎01-21-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

My overall impression about Sag Harbor is that it was good read although it is a different style I usually read.
Posts: 3,435
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Final Thoughts

I think Sag Harbor was a well written book about a family. It had some funny moments, alot of seriousness was present in this novel.  It contained alot of problems that plaque  all  of our communties. Abuse is the main issue here that was a serious issue to all of us.  But it did have some light moments and some funny moments. I enjoyed the read alot. It would have not been a novel I would have chose for myself.
Posts: 177
Registered: ‎04-15-2008
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Re: Final Thoughts

I enjoyed reading Sag Harbor, although I didn't consider it a "can't put it down" type of book.  That being said, I felt it was a perfect selection for First Look, since it had a lot of thought-provoking topics (race, dysfunctional family, influenced by two different worlds, adolescence, etc.).  The book went down paths I didn't always expect, such as the BB gun incident and just the whole family dynamic in Benji's family.  It wasn't a memoir, but felt like one - sweet, tender, and humorous at times, unflinching look at abuse at other times.  When I first found out about the book selection, I thought it was going to be more of a Young Adult type of book.  Instead, I found it to be an Adult story of a man looking back with tender and humourous memories of growing up, while at the same time seeing his family and friends in an honest, sometimes unflattering light.

Although it wasn't my favorite First Look read, it is one that I will read again due to the topics explored and one that I will save for my boys to read.

New User
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎02-13-2009
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Re: Final Thoughts

I had a really hard time getting through this book.  Although the description and story struck me a relatable and interesting when I actually read the book I had a hard time staying involved in the story.  I liked the idea of a 15 year old kid who was trying to figure out how he belonged.  From what I learned about Benji so far I like his character a lot.  I also could relate to the opening scene very well because I definitley did the whole Bat Mitvah scene and have seen that their are some people perceived as outsiders at such religious events. 


Honestly I have only read the first chapter or so but I do plan on pushing along and trying to continue to read this book and then posting a full review but for some reason this was really slow going for me.  I can't quite put my finger on what it was yet.


Overall, I did like the First Look experience though and hearing other people's takes on the book helped me keep going. 

Posts: 106
Registered: ‎12-17-2007
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Re: Final Thoughts

I was amazed that Benjy and his brother had so much unsupervised time and amazed that they handled the freedom as well as they did.  I liked the development of the characters, especially Benjy.  It was interesting how he tried to protect his brother and keep him out of the shooting episode.  I had not read anything previously by Whitehead and I will try some of his other novels.  ~  Thanks to B&N and all of the moderators for a job well done.

~~ Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.

~~ Be careful reading health books. You may die of a misprint. Mark Twain
Posts: 606
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Final Thoughts

I had a difficult time getting through the book.  I had lots of hope for it, as I too had grown up at the beach. I just wasn't as into it as I had hoped I would be. It was Ok, readable, but the lack of a cohesive plot threw me for a loop. 


I was surprised at the lack of supervision the that Benji and Reggie had.  No teens I knew as a teen would have been that unsupervised; and none that I know now either! 

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
-Sir Richard Steele